Krenz maps school issues for new year

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, August 9, 2011

If Austin residents didn’t know there was a lot happening at school, they do now.

Austin Public Schools Superintendent David Krenz outlined the district’s strategic roadmap for the upcoming school year to the school board and the public Monday.

Among the most pressing issues for district officials are the upcoming bond referendum for a new grades five-six school and additions at Woodson Kindergarten Center, the expansion of the Grading for Learning initiative, and introducing the district’s new English curriculum.

Email newsletter signup

“We need to look at not only where they will be at but where the future will be,” Krenz told the board.

The topics Krenz outlined reads like a list of headlines over the past year: District officials made concerted efforts in 2010 on several key projects, from Sumner Elementary School’s 45/15 schedule switch to implementing the district’s then-new math curriculum, from expanding the Grading for Learning initiative to testing the waters with Ellis Middle School’s Ramp Up to Readiness program in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s College Readiness Consortium.

“Those are all key components” of what the district is doing, Krenz said.

The district also firmed up its five-year strategic roadmap, with the lofty goal (among several) of improving each student’s educational journey by 2015.

Yet this year’s goals are clear. If the district is to function well, the bond referendum for the new school project needs to pass, according to district officials.

The new school project was created in response to the district’s projected increasing enrollment over the next several years. According to a 2009 demographics study, Austin could increase by as many as 400 students by 2014 and between 800 to 1,000 new students could attend Austin 10 years from now, according to demographic projections based on Mower County birth records.

The district will also undertake smaller initiatives, such as expanding the Grading for Learning program at the high school level. The grading system, which started at Ellis two years ago, gives students a grade based on their mastery of classroom material and a grade based on their conduct in the classroom. The life skills grade only makes up 10 percent of a student’s total grade. While ninth-graders had the Grading for Learning system last year, the program will expand to sophomore-level courses this year.

District officials will be busy introducing the new Common Core Language Arts curriculum this year as well. Several new Language Arts programs, such as Words Their Way — a learning system that teaches kids the meaning and structure of words — as well as the new MONDO learning model, which lays out language proficiencies that students should attain, will be in Austin classrooms this fall.

The district will also expand its healthy snack cart program to all elementary schools this year. The program was introduced at Woodson and Sumner last year.

Technology will remain a focus as well, as district officials put in 355 computer systems last year, with a similar amount of computers to be set up this year, according to Krenz.