MinnWest discussed as site for technical academy
WILLMAR — The Willmar Planning Commission has approved the use of a MinnWest Technology Campus cottage by Technical Academies of Minnesota, a public charter secondary school.
Under the city’s technology district zoning ordinance, education is a permitted use at the campus, provided plans are approved by the zoning administrator and the Planning Commission.
The commission’s action will be approved by the City Council if the commission’s meeting minutes are approved under the council’s consent agenda, said City Planner Megan DeSchepper.
The commission’s approval means Technical Academies of Minnesota will be moving forward with opening a charter school at MinnWest in the fall of 2014, according to Tammie Knick, Technical Academies of Minnesota board member.
A news release said the vision of Technical Academies of Minnesota is to create technical academies that foster competencies, creativity, confidence and purpose resulting in successful leaders and citizens in the future.
The school focuses on project-based learning. Through technology and an interest-based learning plan, students will be advised and engaged throughout each day, according to the news release. Students become self-directed in the development of a series of projects that meet state standards in a personalized way based upon their interests and career choices.
As students develop their projects, they can access specific college courses, online courses or technical internships that align with their projects and will help them acquire skills required for success in the work force.
A student’s time is organized individually, and may include independent work, small group work, or work outside of the building in community service or a work-based internship, mentorship or apprenticeship.
Within the next few weeks, according to the news release, Technical Academies of Minnesota will be looking for community members to join a community board, which will be developed to build business and education partnerships, help design the school, create operations, schedules, policies and recruitment strategies.
Student recruitment will begin after Jan. 1. The school will house 150 students in grades 7-12 from Willmar and the surrounding communities. If that number is exceeded, a lottery drawing will take place to select students for enrollment for fall 2014.
Last February, the Minnesota Department of Education approved Technical Academies of Minnesota’s application to open four charter schools in southern Minnesota over the next five years. The schools will have a career and technical skill focus to better prepare students for the future through projects, internships, and dual credit opportunities, according to the news release.
It said Willmar was selected as one of the first sites because of the city’s strong and progressive business community and educational opportunities. Willmarʼs steady growth in population, technical, and professional jobs makes Willmar an ideal school location, the release said.
Joanna Schrupp, who works in business development at MinnWest, said Technical Academies of Minnesota selected MinnWest because it felt the focus on careers, technical skills, workforce development and opportunities that the campus and region offered would be a natural fit.
The MinnWest Board approved the request Oct. 3 to lease an entire cottage of about 18,000 square feet.
Schrupp said the board is very positive.
“When we talk about workforce in the future, this type of setup is another option, another opportunity for students. We were pretty excited,’’ said Schrupp. “But we also do work with all the other local school districts. That won’t go away. The campus already promotes STEM (science, technology, engineering and math education) in youth. But the charter school will be more than that.’’