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Students struggling at ACGC, Minn., get a helping hand

GROVE CITY — Students who may be struggling academically or socially are getting after-school classroom help through a new “targeted services” program in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District.

Designed for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, the extended-day program was launched Feb 5.

“It’s brand new,” said Robin Wall, who coordinates the program for the district.

With the goal of improving test scores, the year-round intervention/prevention program features creative, out-of-the-box teaching methods.

“It’s not supposed to look like a traditional school day,” said Wall.

Targeted services are supposed to meet the student’s “individual learning style, which may be hands-on and activity-based,” states a document school board members received during a report Monday night at their meeting.

Games, making rocket balloons and measuring their flight distance and doing experiments are used to help teach math and grammar.

But the program is more than just academic.

According to the guidelines, it must also include a social and emotional component.

At ACGC one elementary-aged group is practicing a play about friendship that will be presented March 12.

“They’re presenting material in an alternative fashion,” said Dan Tait, ACGC business manager, adding that the teachers are encouraged to use projects and activities that they may not have the time or confidence to present in a regular classroom. “They’re having fun with it,” he said.

The classes are taught by regular ACGC teachers who are putting in the extra time. “It shows how dedicated they are to our kids,” said Wall.

The 1½-hour classes are offered in the morning on Mondays, when ACGC with its four-day calendar is not in session, and Tuesdays and Thursdays after school.

Several classes will also be held in August as a refresher before school starts.

So far the program has been very popular. There are 90 students in K-4 grades, which is about 32 percent of the elementary student body, attending regularly. There are 34 students in grades 5-8 receiving the services.

The program is not intended to be short-term intervention and students cannot attend on simply a “drop-in” basis, according to the report.

Wall said it’s still too early to determine if the extra instruction is having an effect on students. That may not be known until the next round of state tests.

“So far it’s been a great asset and the kids are really enjoying it,” she said. “The goal is to move all those test scores up.”

The program is funded through the general fund budget but qualifies for extended-day funding through the state formula.

In the past, ACGC funded similar programs through a 21st Century grant. The district did not receive that grant this year.

In other action this week, the board was informed that the state has still not processed the district’s request to continue operating on a four-day schedule but was assured the response would be coming soon. If the request is denied, the district’s budget could be negatively affected.

“We’re a little uneasy just now,” said Tait.

As part of routine budgetary action, the board approved a resolution giving termination notice to 15 probationary teachers. The action gives the district flexibility in staffing for the next school year.

Although no formal action has been taken, Tait said the school board will likely seek voter approval this fall to continue its operating levy to generate additional revenue. He said, however, legislation has been proposed that could allow districts to continue any existing voter-approved levy without going to voters again.

In that case districts could keep levies in place at their current rate. Voter approval would only be required if the levy rate was increased.

Also Monday:

- The board agreed to cancel classes this Thursday to allow students and staff to attend the state wrestling meet.

- The board heard an update on the installation of new security measures at the school buildings.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750