APS School Board has first look at reading, online policies

Published 5:54 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2023

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The Austin Public Schools Board on Monday night held first readings of two new policies for the district that would align the district with Minnesota Legislature mandates.

The first of these was a first read for literacy and the Minnesota Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (READ) that would require students to be reading at or above their grade level every year beginning in kindergarten.

The READ Act replaces the Read Well by Third Grade Act.

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“The district has been working diligently the last year and a half putting a reading curriculum together and meet the needs of our students,” Board Chair Kathy Green said, who added that the district will now have to go back to the drawing board. “We’re hoping for good things, but it will need a lot of work from our staff.”

One of the concerns voice by Vice Chair Peggy Young, who wondered  about additional funding to support the move, knowing that some students are coming into the district speaking no English at all.

Superintendent Dr. Joey Page said that while some funding has been set aside to help schools adapt to the new policy, there will likely be no new hires.

According to the policy draft, by 2026-27, the district will need to provide evidence-based reading instruction that will focus on a variety reading skills including phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency.

It will also need to demonstrate development of oral language, vocabulary and reading comprehension skills.

The second of the new polices regards online instruction, again because of another legislative move which repealed the Online Learning Option Act and replaced it with the Online Instruction Act.

According to policy documents, this will recognize and govern online instruction options of students enrolled in the school district for purposes of compulsory attendance.

It will also address enrollment of students with an online instruction site for supplemental or full-time online learning.

The policy also outlines that the district will not prohibit enrolled students from applying for online instruction and it will grant academic credit for completing requirements of online instruction courses or programs.

Page added that there would only be 40 students per quarter allowed for online instruction.

In other news:

• The board has set its Truth and Taxation meeting for Dec. 11, 2023.

• It has also named Katie Baskin as the district’s Local Education Agent, which oversees Federal Title funds as well as working with any required district/site improvement plans that may result from Adequate Yearly Progress status.