Helmut Schmidt, Published August 21 2010
Central Cass looks to expand schoolThe Squirrels’ nest needs to grow.
At least, that’s what top Central Cass officials think.
With the school year in Casselton, N.D., set to start Monday, the School Board, administrators and teachers are trying to determine the district’s most pressing needs and just how big of an addition to the K-12 school complex they may ask voters to approve.
Superintendent Mark Weston wants a plan that enhances curriculum and is cost-effective. He said that’s something the public will embrace, not “a wish list.”
“We don’t want to take it (to voters) that way. We don’t think that sells well that way,” he said.
Weston said the district has four needs:
- An alternative learning center to encourage students to stay and get their diplomas.
Weston envisions an online program that allows students to learn at their own pace.
He’d like a low student-teacher ratio – three to four students per teacher – and ties to local businesses so students can explore careers and earn money.
“We don’t want to bend rules to the point where there’s not rigor or accountability. Yet not every kid fits the standard seven-period school day,” Weston said.
- Gymnasium space. Weston said sports practices run from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., affecting study time for the 820 students. There are game scheduling issues, lyceums and a need for a place to play over noon hours during harsh weather.
Weston said Central Cass should also have space for an intramural program to help the students stay active if they don’t make a varsity squad.
- Fine arts expansion in instrumental, vocal and drama. “We’ve got some good programs we’d like to take to the next level,” Weston said.
- An area for English Language Learners. The district is seeing more ELL students, he said.
Earlier this year, an architect recommended an expansion expected to cost $6.5 million to $7.75 million, School Board President Keith Gohdes said. That seemed unlikely to be approved, he said.
Gohdes said the board picked three of its members, Scott Kost, Deb Roesler and Pat Knudson, to meet with community leaders, including farmers and business people.
“We need to find out what the voters, what the patrons, want,” Gohdes said.
He said there isn’t a timetable for the decision.
Meanwhile, Weston and other administrators will work with teachers.
Weston also said the district is dedicated to building professional learning communities. He said 26 staff members went to Minneapolis a week ago and came back energized.
“There’s an incredible enthusiasm right now about trying to get better at our trade, which is teaching,” he said.
Central Cass has one of the earliest starts among area schools, Weston said of Monday’s start.
District officials are using the extra days to adjust the school calendar so the semester ends before Christmas. That way, Weston said, students won’t take finals after a long layoff and teachers have time to prep for the start of the next semester.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583