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ACGC plans to add some programs while looking to take a bite out of other areas

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News Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

ATWATER -- In a see-saw game of financial give and take, the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District may trim staff, shuffle teachers and "morph" its under-used alternative learning program next year. At the same time, the district hopes to beef up K-12 educational opportunities.

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Changes that could be implemented next year would strengthen the science, reading and math curriculum and return some prized music programs that were cut when the district was in statutory operating debt.

Under a proposal the board heard Monday, a fifth-grade teacher would be added to accommodate a large class size. Also a one-third-time visual arts teacher would be added at the high school and a half-time music instructor would be added that would allow for the return of band and choir to fifth- through 12th-grade students.

Despite the additions, the district expects to save $50,000.

If given final board approval, the savings would happen because some programs, like the alternative learning program and drivers' education classes, would be changed and those staff members reassigned to teach classes that had been "overload" classes for other teachers.

An overload is the equivalent of working overtime.

Five overloads can equal the salary of a full-time instructor, not including benefits, said Business Manager Dan Tait. "The overloads are expensive," he said.

Preliminary plans would include "morphing" the alternative learning program, said Superintendent Sherri Broderius.

Currently, two instructors teach 16 students at the ALP, which offers flexible learning hours and non-traditional teaching formats for at-risk students. When that program started 17 years ago, it was anticipated it would have about 25 kids

The program "can't continue to run like it used to," Broderius said.

Under the new plan, those students would be moved from the elementary school in Atwater to the Junior/Senior High School in Grove City and would utilize an educational computer program to make up lost credits. They could also take other classes offered at the high school. They would be required to attend classes during regular school hours.

The ALP staff would be cut in half, with one of the instructors reassigned to other classroom duties.

The drivers' education class would also be removed from the mainstream curriculum and be run by the community education department. Those instructors would also be reassigned.

With the directive of finding $100,000 in cuts at ACGC South Elementary in order to keep the Cosmos school open next year, administrators are considering combining the four grades into two sections that would be taught by two teachers.

The other two teachers may be shuffled into other classrooms in the district.

In a later interview, Tait said in the end the district could see the elimination of one full-time and two half-time positions if the comprehensive district-wide restructuring plan is approved.

Citing good scores on state tests, Jeff Lutz, who has children attending ACGC South, asked the board not to consider combining classes at the Cosmos school. He said students there are "kicking butt" with their scores. "Why would we want to mess with something that's truly working well."

With a total of 78 kids, the average class size at ACGC South is 15 students.

There are 246 kids at ACGC North in Atwater with the average classroom size of 23 students.

Board Chairwoman Judy Raske said the budgeting decisions will have to be made before the end of June.

She has been meeting with Cosmos city officials about ways the city could help keep the school open. She asked for the board's blessing to meet with city councils in Grove City and Atwater to give them a "state of the school" report and see if their communities might also have ideas for collaborating with the district.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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