We have many new opportunities for students in Princeton Public Schools this year, thanks to a forward thinking School Board. A few years ago our Board Finance Committee recommended to the School Board that some funding be restricted to innovative programming. As a result, our district provided free all day every day Kindergarten for our students, one year prior to the state law providing it.
Last year, the School Board approved several other new initiatives that were implemented for this year. The intent was to look for programs that would attract, recruit and retain our student population, since our enrollment was on a slow decline. The good news is that it appears that our enrollment might have a slight increase.
The initiatives include:
Princeton Online Academy
After a rigorous application process, our online academy plan was approved by the state. Our administrators began publicizing the program in July, and our program is up and running! We have about 45 students participating in this program. Some students are full time, and others are shared students, or part time. We have found that some homeschool parents are choosing the program for a “extra” courses, such as STEM. It is for students in grades 3 through 12.
Gifted and Talented Program P-12
This program was restructured for this year. Each school has a paid coordinator, including pre-school. The goal for this year is to build capacity in all teachers, to help them to serve our gifted and talented population, through questioning strategies and creating engaging complex activities. Each school has a plan, which expands student experiences for the year. The team will be studying our district identification process throughout the year as well.
Pre-K and K Spanish Immersion
We have one section of pre-k and two sections of kindergarten for our Spanish Immersion program, with about 50 students participating. Students actually learn the Minnesota content standards through the Spanish language. Immersion Programs have been shown to help students activate more capacity in connecting brain synapses, thus helping them to be higher achieving. In addition, students are exposed to cultural aspects of Spanish speaking countries.
Our district is embarking upon a communication audit, to reveal how we might better connect to our community. Our goal is to better satisfy our community and families, by better communication. We are also trying to link our district to our younger families earlier, to make certain that they know of the resources available for birth to five students and beyond. One of the strategies that we are using is called Tigers in Training, where we connect with each age group twice per year, inviting them to school events. We are building Tiger Pride early and often!
We already have a STEM class for each eighth grade student to participate, and STEAM furthers that program, by including the arts as well. There is a team of four teachers at the Middle School who have received training in how to integrate STEAM activities in grades 6 through 8. This is a program that will provide enrichment for every single middle school student.
English Learner Program
Although we have always had an English Learner Program part time, this is the first year that we were able to offer the position as full time. We have a teacher committed to providing basic English to all of our students, K through 12. He is busy, visiting with families, and going from school to school, teaching our students. There are many barriers to students and families with other languages as their home language. Think about all of the forms, communication, report cards, parent-teacher conferences, etc. Our teacher will be able to coordinate services to help the families and students. This position was funded through federal funds.
The ADSIS (Alternative Delivery Service Instruction Model) Program is paid through state funds, through a competitive process. Basically, this program provides academic interventions in reading and mathematics for students who are struggling in grades K-8. Thankfully, we were able to hire veteran and new teachers who are able to give significant support to our students in need.
Education for Care and Treatment Program
Perhaps you have heard that there is a new Care and Treatment Program in the North Mall. This particular program is not a school district program. Rather, it is a non-profit business that is putting a new site in the Princeton community. That program needed education for its students, and we are providing it for them. Some of the students are from Princeton, but most of them are from other districts.
You can plainly see that we have many programs that are in the infant stage this year. As in the case of infants, they take a great deal of care and support. Our staff and administration have been stellar in giving the new programs plenty of care, to ensure a smooth start of the school year, and sustenance to finish the school year in good stead. We are excited to provide these programs for our students and families, and we hope that you will welcome them into our community.
Julia Espe, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools