MARQUETTE - As students across the area stack up their new notebooks, folders and pencils, North Star Academy is working on putting the finishing touches on some of its own new school supplies - namely a new six-classroom middle school building.
North Star CEO Karen Andreson said with a rise in overall enrollment at the school, the extra classrooms will "give us a little breathing space."
"Each classroom is larger than anything we have now," Anderson said. "They're 800 square feet."
North Star Academy's newest addition, a six-room middle school building, will be ready for students and teachers by the school’s open house, scheduled for Aug. 29. (Journal photos by Jackie Stark)
The new building is being leased by North Star for five years. The total expansion - including added parking and an area for a new greenhouse - takes up nearly an acre and a half. A new entrance off of Wright Street will be added as well.
The new building will house sixth through eighth grades, though the sixth grade will remain on the elementary school's schedule.
Along with the physical changes, the school is also undergoing some significant curriculum changes, namely by incorporating service learning at every grade level.
"Usually we start professional development that last week in August but because we're going to be implementing a new concept all the way through K-12 involving community-based service learning, our treachers had a full day of professional development on July 9 and Aug. 6," Anderson said. "They've been working all summer too."
Andreson said the expansion of the service-learning component of the curriculum was fostered in part by the success of the school's Community Environmental Education Program, which has a heavy focus on service-oriented projects.
The CEEP is used in seventh and eighth grades.
"That's part of the reason that we grew that service learning part of it at the high school level," Anderson said. "Our students out of seventh and eighth grades, they're used to being out in the community. That's why we'll continue that into high school."
Anderson said many of the school's students are working with lcal organizations already, such as the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter and the Moosewood Nature Center.
Some students are also working on a project for the Library of Congress, interviewing veterans so their stories can be saved for future generations.
"Our leadership training program is a group that will work on website development for the school district and the individual classes," Anderson added. "Teachers will have links and there will be more information avialable."
The school will also offer after-hours music classes to help accomdate students who can't fit music into their schedules.
"We're doing ful-time music this year, that's a first. We added Spanish and a high school PE teacher ... who is an Olympic diver, so that's kind of exciting," Anderson said. "With the expanded music program, we've expanded the day for music actually until 5 o'clcok because a lot of the students don't have time for the electives during the day."
The school has also added a new developmental kindergarten class. With just more than half of its 20 spots filled, Anderson said there is still time to register children before school starts.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.