Chatfield’s School Board entertained a very busy agenda during the Monday, Nov. 20, meeting, with presentations and updates from staff and administration.

Board members were given a presentation by instructor Jessica Hanson regarding the FlexStar program, a new initiative to immerse seventh grade students in cross-curricular learning. This was started at the beginning of this school year to help ease class sizes and test the possibilities for achievement available to students given the opportunities to study both science and English at the same time.

Hanson related that there are 16 students in the program and that she, fellow instructors Mitch Lee, Niki DeBuhr and another staff member, Ryan Eppen, had been charged with piloting the program in the junior high.

She shared that the students have ventured into topics such as stem cell research while completing science and English projects, and they’ve also gone on field trips to various destinations — including POET Biorefining in Preston and to the Lanesboro Art Center, learning about the tenets of scientific and sociological matters.

“We surveyed the students, and the results were very positive. Looking ahead, there’s another field trip scheduled for Dec. 8 for history and English, and we have more planned,” she said.

Hanson concluded that the district will conduct an exit survey of students and parents in the spring to gather input on how the first year of FlexStar went.

Chatfield Superintendent Ed Harris said he has witnessed the benefits the FlexStar program has offered students, and he remarked that he hopes the work invested into launching the program will lead to further incorporation of its principles in coming school years.

“The planning for this began in February or March of this year, and it’s pretty obvious that the kids are interested in what’s going on in the class,” Harris said. “I hope the program continues not only because we have the numbers in classrooms…I’m hopeful the staff will continue the programming. It’s been well done.”

Technology report

 Kristy Cook, responsible for some of the district’s tech integration, gave a report on how new technology has been incorporated throughout the district, beginning with new full-size iPads being distributed to the fourth through seventh graders — allowing them to explore the capabilities of the devices as part of their education.

She went on to tell about the television monitors, computers and sound system installed in each high school classroom following the renovation of one wing of the school.

“We’ve had two trainings on how to use some of the equipment in the classrooms,” she stated. “At the elementary, we’re looking at elementary tech needs and digital communication tools. There’s a list of topics we need to discuss. Our goals are to use new technology daily in the classrooms.”

She concluded by informing the board and administration that the district will once again participate in Technovation, a girls’ technology engineering program meant to engage girls and young women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields of work through a contest that requires participants to develop and market an application for a phone, computer or other technological device.

Gopher Time

The third presentation was courtesy of teachers Jolene Dornack and Jodie Daniels, highlighting the newly-implemented Gopher Time homeroom concept that has proven successful at the elementary school.

They gave a slide presentation that illustrated students learning to communicate, challenge themselves and become better citizens through projects and units on specific topics addressed each month in the mixed-grade homerooms.

Chatfield Elementary School Principal Craig Ihrke thanked Dornack and Daniels for their presentation. “The staff really embraced Gopher Time. It’s good to see what they’ve planned.”

Principals’ reports

Ihrke went on to give his monthly report, citing that CES had welcomed and honored veterans from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion posts on Nov. 10, the day that students and staff observed Veterans’ Day.

“Several Legion and VFW folks came to the school that day, and Judge Joe Chase took time out of his day off to share about veterans,” he told the Board. “The Lions Club also gave out dictionaries and rulers.”

Ihrke also noted there have been changes made to the annual concert schedule, including when and how Grandfriends’ Day is held, as a means of making the observance more accessible and to conserve classroom time.

High School Principal Randy Paulson thanked the teachers who carry out the FlexStar programming. “When we started, it was a huge change. When we see kids get really engaged in learning, that’s when it gets fun,” he said.

 Paulson added that work is underway to prepare seventh and eighth graders for flexible learning environments.

“Congratulations to the fall play students and director, Rachel Schieffelbein, for a great performance. There was a student-directed play led by Larissa Martin, and one of the plays in the performance was written by Zach Clement,” he highlighted.

He also noted that the CHS veterans’ concert was a success, and with Tyler Simpson in his first year teaching, the students are learning to read music and sing without accompaniment.

Paulson told about the ongoing construction at the high school, part of which involves the replacement of the cafeteria and commons with a new kitchen, cafeteria and commons.

“Next year, the cafeteria space will be bigger, so there’ll be room for ninth through twelfth grades…there will also be more room in the schedule for classes. The classroom across from the art room is being developed for when the kitchen closes here and we need a serving room for lunches,” Paulson said. “The Focus ALP is moving into the former FACS room, where Dave Hinck will have an office to make it easier to hold discussions and keep student’ data private. Also, we’re working on 2018-2019 registration.”

Superintendent’s report

Harris’s turn came next. “We will be attending a legislative forum with the city tomorrow night (Nov. 21), and that’s something the city does every year —gathers with local legislators,” he said.

He asked for volunteers who wanted to attend, and while there were some, Harris was the only representative of the school district who was able to attend that forum, but he spoke of issues such as teachers’ pensions and how the district and city are reinvesting in the community through referendums.

“The city election for the pool passed — the new pool will remain on our property to the south, and we have to discuss where the white shed will go because it’s where the pool will go,” he noted.

Regarding the construction at the high school, Harris said it’s on schedule and budget, and there’s progress on the STEM wing. The science rooms are close to having walls raised on Dec. 1.

“Another smaller item that came up is that the men’s and ladies’ restrooms on the entrance hallway, which were rather original, have been demolished and replaced with a family restroom,” he said.

Harris concluded by expressing appreciation to Chatfield Ambulance Director Sue Kester. “We want to thank Sue Kester for the training in CPR and first aid in our buildings. She came and trained about 15 people,” he concluded.

The consent agenda included the posting of the position vacated by elementary paraprofessional Stephanie Mensink, welcoming Rachel Schieffelbein as the one-act play director and Stephanie Copeman as assistant speech advisor, and hiring Ryan Kivimagi as the new seventh grade girls’ basketball coach.

The next regular Chatfield school board meeting is slated for 7 p.m. in the high school media center on Dec. 18, with subsequent meetings set for Jan. 22, Feb. 26, March 19, April 16 and May 21, 2018. The public is welcome to attend.

Dec. 1 marks the end of the first trimester for kindergarten through eighth grade.

For more information, log onto the Chatfield school website at www.chatfield.k12.mn.us, or stop in at one of the school board meetings.