8th-graders to move in fall

BLUE EARTH – Blue Earth Area School Board decided this year’s 7th-graders will be starting 8th-grade at the high school in the fall.

“What is the driving force: Provide a better environment for the 8th-graders to succeed,” said Rich Schneider, high school principal.

Teacher Gary Holmseth spoke about visiting Red Wing, which has already moved its 8th-graders to the high school.

“The 8th-graders who became 9th-graders had way fewer (class) failures,” Holmseth said, “when GPA matters more than 8th-grade.”

The administration has made some changes since a parent meeting last week, when it was announced agriculture and art would have to be cut from the 8th-grade curriculum.

Career exploration is offered to 8th-graders and will continue to be, Schneider said. The time will increase, allowing staff to expose the 8th-graders to agriculture lessons.

“We’re an agricultural community – we need to honor that,” Schneider said.

While the district could not offer art to the 8th-graders, the art curriculum would be expanded for the 6th- and 7th-graders.

“Ultimately for the schedule to work, something had to give,” Schneider said.

It was pointed out that art is an option for the freshmen, and Art Club could be an option for interested 8th-graders.

The goal is to get 8th-graders used to the block schedule, so the effort was made to avoid “skinnies” or splitting a block, Schneider said.

Orientation will be offered to the youngsters, with the added benefit of older student leaders assisting.

“I’ve been getting quite a few calls from people about space,” said Mary Eckhardt, board member. She pointed out the high school’s capacity was 600. “We are grossly under-utilizing that building.”

With grades 8-12, the projected total is still under 500.

“We don’t move kids just because of space, we move kids for sound educational reasons,” said board chair Frankie Bly, a former elementary teacher. “I think what they presented to us is very sound: Fewer failures in 9th-grade after they’ve been in the high school setting.”

In other business, the board approved:

o Having classes on Monday, Feb. 17. The students were scheduled to not have classes in observance of Presidents Day, but all the days missed due to the cold and snow necessitated conducting class.

o The first phase of the 1:1 Computer Initiative, which is to upgrade the district’s wireless network. The 1:1 Computer Initiative is a project for each student in the district to have a computer.