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Lifelong Learning

Middle School Task Force makes programming recommendations for grades 5-6 school

January 12, 2017

While construction of the building is underway, work also continues as Moorhead Area Public Schools determines programming and transition guidelines for the new grades 5-6 Horizon Middle School West Campus. The School Board heard the latest update from the Middle School Task Force at the Dec. 12 meeting.

Representative task force members provided an update on the planning being done by the Middle School Task Force during fall meetings. The task force members said they are planning for 1,030 students in the grades 5-6 school with 17-19 sections possible per grade.

They reviewed the task force’s guiding principles and the parameters used to direct the decision making. The task force’s goals were to work on the programming and facility needs timeline; recommendation for programming for 5-6; creation of transition program for staff and students K-4 to 5-6 to 7-8; and recommendation for personalized learning, technology integration, 21st century skills and innovative programs.

The grades 5-6 schedules will include literacy, social studies, math, science and advisory connections, said Diana Johnson, Ellen Hopkins Elementary assistant principal. On a four-day rotating schedule students will have physical education/health, music and art, with the recommendation that students will have the opportunity to take band or orchestra, she said.

Opportunities include integrated and innovative programming such as project-based learning, AVID school-wide and 21st century skills; flexible learning spaces with maker spaces for hands-on learning; and smaller team sizes that allows for rigor and relationships, task force members said.

Connections/advisory time will use a supplemental curriculum, said Jamie York, fifth-grade teacher and task force member. The primary goal of the connections time is to build relationships, she said. The school’s Building Leadership Team and PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) team will make decisions on the curriculum and work together to create the plan.

Spanish Immersion will be integrated into both grades 5 and 6, said Jessica Rieniets, Spanish Immersion teacher. She reported that a smaller focus group met in November and developed a plan to recommend three grades 5-6 multi-age classrooms to establish the Spanish Immersion program successfully. This will maintain programming for grade 5 and add programming to grade 6 for students to continue with the immersion program an additional year.

Recess will be scheduled daily, but what recess looks like will be a building-level decision, said Carla Smith, principal at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary and principal next year of Horizon Middle School West Campus. There are still questions and decisions for the grades 5-6 team to make about what will best serve students.

“We want them to be active; we want them to be engaged,” she said.

Both Horizon West and Horizon East will follow the current start and end times for Horizon Middle School, which fits with the recommended programming and allows for shared before- and after-school resources with Horizon East. After-school and before-school programming is still being discussed, but could include academic support like Excel, intramural sports, arts, technology or other areas based on student/family interest. The building leadership team will discuss and consider options, the task force members said.

Transition teams will discuss other issues pertinent to the school day and other building-level concerns, Johnson said. Smaller focus groups formed by invitation include Spanish Immersion, PEMA/Specials (physical education/music/art), learner support services and space design team. The space design team will bring in students, teachers and specialists to get their feedback, she said.

Photo caption: This aerial photo from November 2016 shows progress on Horizon Middle School West Campus, the new grades 5-6 school under construction for Moorhead Area Public Schools.

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