On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, our school board officially approved a grade reconfiguration for our district to begin with the 2015-2016 school year. We will be planning for Pre K/K-5 elementary, 6-8 middle level, and 9-12 grade schools. This is an exciting time to be able to leverage the implementation of all-day kindergarten programs in every one of our 17 elementary schools while aligning our grade structure to better support students and families. At the elementary level, we are thrilled that this reconfiguration will allow us to bring more early learning programs to our schools. While we will miss having 6th graders, the available classroom space will allow us to consider Pre-K programs (which Rice Lake currently does not have) and provide flexible spaces to support gifted education, differentiated instruction, small group intervention, and other activities that we currently implement in hallways, the media center, and small, crowded spaces. Stay tuned as I will be sharing information and engaging students, families and staff members as we move forward with the planning for this exciting change.
Tonight I shared our district’s digital learning plan and vision with our PTO members. We are fortunate our voters approved a technology levy last fall that will allow us to provide the digital learning support our students and teachers need to achieve their dreams, contribute to community, and engage in a lifetime of learning. I took the picture included in this blog post today. It is a photo of a 4-year-old sibling of one of our students. She was engaged with her mother’s digital device while her mom was volunteering and assisting students in one of our computer labs. This child was engaged and effectively interacting with games on the device. When I asked her what game she was playing, she told me, “I can’t read but I can play games.” She was manipulating characters in the games more masterfully than I could. If this is how four-year-olds are engaging with technology, we need to be prepared for them when they enter our classrooms!
Our district’s digital learning plan will address teaching and learning, technology refresh, and staff development. Our Chief Technology Officer, Tim Wilson, said that by the school year 2016-2017, the third year of the plan, we will be engaged in the largest 1-to-1 device initiative ever in the state of Minnesota. I am excited about the possibilities for teaching that will result from every licensed staff member receiving an iPad Air at the end of this school year and the staff development that will help them learn its potential for teaching and learning. I am thrilled with the rollout of our 1-to-1 initiative that will give specific grade levels and classrooms of teacher early implementers access to devices for learning. I am pleased that our district will be investing in hardware, software, and infrastructure needs to ensure that teachers and students can use systems that operate effectively and efficiently.
Thank you to our PTO which continues to provide us with technology for teaching and learning. To date, our PTO has gifted us with document cameras, projectors, SMART Boards, a computer lab, iPads for specific teacher use, a school-shared set of iPad Minis, and a school-shared set of Chromebooks, among other things.
I am excited to be part of a school with such a generous PTO that recognizes the need for technology to support teaching and learning, to be part of a district that has a well crafted digital learning plan, and part of a community that sees the value of equipping our students and teachers with the necessesay tools to engage students and impact student achievement.
Academics are one of our top priorities here at Rice Lake. At this time of the year, teachers are focusing on making sure our students are prepared for the math, reading, and science portions of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. Soon, they will do the same for the reading and math sections of the Measures of Academic Progress of the NWEA. Even with that focus on academic achievement, it is nice to recognize some of the other things that students are engaged in at Rice Lake. We completed our second school musical this weekend with nearly 50 Rice Lake Roadrunners performing in Schoolhouse Rock Live, Jr. We are looking forward to the third annual musical next school year! Rice Lake students participate in the All-District Choir, Fermi Math League, PROS group, Students Connecting Through International Service Project, band and orchestra concerts, and our 5th and 6th grade chorus, among opportunities avaiable to students. While student achievement and academic progress are priorities, I want families to know that extra curricular activities and other opportunities are important as we develop students to achieve their dreams, contribute to community, and engage in a lifetime of learning.
A few weeks ago there was some media about school lunches being taken away and/or denied in another state. I am happy to say that at Rice Lake, and in the Osseo Area Schools, that practice does not happen. I am proud of the breakfast and lunch programs we offer. We have approximately 150 students (that includes Kidstop) that start their day with breakfast at school. Approximately 500 students enjoy lunch served at school. We provide a meal to every student, regardless of lunch balance, and when students run a negative balance, the meals continue while we engage in problem solving to identify any additional assistance families may need. I am proud of our food service and custodial staff that work hard to provide the meals and manage the cafeteria. Our ESPs supervise students in the cafeteria and other support staff members help with student supervision and engagement.
Lunch for all students is not just a priority at Rice Lake and in the Osseo Area Schools. Governor Dayton pledged to include $3.5 million in his supplemental budget request “to ensure that no Minnesota student is denied access to a hot meal at lunchtime.” Legislative leaders, who returned to session at the end of February, have similarly vowed to make lunch funding a priority. Senator Al Franken also is working to provide federal funding to help more low-income children get school meals.
If you ever have a question about breakfast or lunch with respect to your child or children, please feel free to call me directly at 763-315-7380. Thank you for allowing us to work with your children to help them achieve their dreams, contribute to community, and engage in a lifetime of learning.