Heading into 2022

Heading into 2022
Posted on 01/03/2022
Heading into 2022

From the Superintendent’s Desk...

Why is 8th grade at the high school?  Why is 4th grade in middle school?  How important is birth to age 5 care/education?  These are all questions I have consistently received over the first 6 months as Superintendent of Montevideo Public Schools.  While there are certainly many other questions, thoughts, and ideas being shared; these questions along with “when is the next referendum happening” are the most prevalent, therefore are the topics of this article.

Birth to Age 5 is Important

The school district’s early childhood program, Little Thunder Hawks, is comprised of year round infant care, toddler care, 3 year old preschool, and 4 year old preschool.  Little Thunder Hawks is a unique child care program that seamlessly transitions children from age 6 weeks through 5 year old programming.  The district also operates a 9 month preschool for 3 year olds and 4 year olds; Small World Nursery School.  These programs are all housed at the Sanford Learning Center.  

Little Thunder Hawks and Small World Preschool meet a very important need in our community.  At a time where only 61% of preschool eligible children in the United States attend preschool, the Montevideo School District attained 91% in 2021.  While not all children attend district preschool programs or partner programs, such as Head Start, the majority do.  Daycare shortages have ravaged Minnesota creating significant issues not only for parents, but for the business community.  ISD 129 is proud to be a proactive partner with the community to ensure that high quality, affordable daycare opportunities exist. 

The district is currently exploring opportunities to move the birth to 5 program out of the Sanford Learning Center and into an Early Childhood Center that provides opportunities for future growth and to exist in a space that is meant for early childhood programming.  It is the desire of the district to lease a facility within the community that will meet the needs of these programs for the future while also helping to meet a second goal, reconfiguration of grade levels in the district.

Kindergarten to 12th Grade

Moving the birth to 5 programs to a different location would free up space for the district to reconfigure grade level programming in a way that makes social and academic sense.  This move would allow the district  to re-align grade levels housed in current facilities to K-2, 3-4, 5-8, and 9-12.  

While these ideas are still being discussed, it is the direction that the district desires to move forward with for the 2022-2023 school year if possible.  Much work has to be done before solidifying these changes, but as a district we believe 1) this is the desire of our community, 2) it makes academic and social sense, 3) it is a short term, fiscally responsible solution to current needs, and 4) it allows for the opportunity to expand childcare and preschool opportunities moving forward.  

Facilities Referendum

Questions continue to surface around district facilities.  Questions such as; what are we going to do now that the Fine Arts Center is no longer usable?  Reconfiguration doesn’t solve the district facility issues does it?  What is the district's long term facility plan?

It has been 4 years since the last facility study was completed in the district. Due to the community rejecting the 2019 referendum and the facility study data being outdated, the school board and superintendent have had to reflect on the last plan, re-evaluate priorities, and open up discussions with the community.  What we are hearing from our community is an overwhelming opinion that “something needs to be done” regarding district facilities and that the district should take the time to evaluate facilities, engage with the community, and clearly communicate a long term plan.  The school board will begin with step 1; evaluate facilities in order to provide the community with an up to date analysis of district facilities while at the same time continuing to engage our community to understand and respect your desires.  We will maintain an open slate with no predetermined outcome as the facilities analysis is being completed to ensure that whatever solutions are recommended to the community, they will provide a fiscally responsible, long term solution that our community can feel good about.  

Heading into 2022, the district will be putting a focus on early childhood program facilities, grade reconfiguration of the K-12 grades, and completing a district facilities study.  This work is intended to continue moving our district and community forward as we strive to provide the highest quality of education possible for our children.