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Online academy approved

Strategic planning update given

Carrie Meyer, superintendent, Ishpeming Public Schools

ISHPEMING — An internet-based academy is one of the goals that’s come to fruition as part of the strategic planning that’s been underway at Ishpeming Public Schools.

The Ishpeming Board of Education on Monday approved Ishpeming’s online academy to allow home-schooled students to take classes through the web.

“There is a great need for us to develop our own online academy,” Superintendent Carrie Meyer said, pointing out that such a curriculum is offered elsewhere.

The academy also would be at the district’s expense.

“We pay for the program,” Meyer said. “They can use our resources, our online academy and do their schooling at home.”

The new academy could benefit home-schoolers, she said.

“It gives us options where a student is not successful sitting in a classroom, that they need a different type of environment,” Meyer said.

Students also could split their time between taking classes online and in school.

The online academy is part of the district’s strategic plan, which includes five goals and has involved input from the board, teaching staff, administration, students and community stakeholders, said Meyer, who provided an update on Monday.

The plan was approved at the May meeting, but work has continued to achieve those goals.

“We have made some good gains towards our goals,” Meyer said, with periodic updates to be given throughout the year.

The first goal was to create and support diverse and vigorous course offerings at all levels, she said, which included first-year objectives involving topics such as preschool options, arts opportunities, data-driven programs in science and writing, and informing students about college course opportunities.

Meyer said a preschool could start in 2019 at Bethany Lutheran Church, which has agreed to host the school and could be the fiscal agent if the district can work out a sustainable budget.

“We think it’s possible,” Meyer said. “We’re working on the details.”

Another focus is nurturing arts in the district, and Seth Hoopingarner, principal at Ishpeming High/Middle School, elaborated on several of those possibilities, including an art park project, which he said will take place near the high/middle school.

“This is a really cool project,” Hoopingarner said. “We’re going to turn that green space into a student art park and a community art park.”

He said high and middle school students have until around the end of January to produce art that can be photographed, and those photographs will be turned into signage along the Iron Ore Heritage Trail.

A certified art teacher also will meet with fifth- and sixth-grade students weekly to work on a continuous project through an artists-in-residence grant the district received through the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, he said.

The second strategic plan goal, Meyer said, is to attract and retain excellent staff and instructors, and support collaboration, which includes exploring grants for individual professional development.

New teachers already are undergoing professional development instruction at the Marquette-Alger Regional Education Service Agency and are being instructed in the Math Foundations curriculum, she said.

The third goal involves expanding enrollment, helping teachers optimize grant-writing opportunities for classroom needs not covered by the district’s general fund, and examining start-time changes and options.

The new online academy, which falls under this goal, also should increase general enrollment with home-school students, Meyer said.

Goal number four is to create a student-centered approach to a better learning environment, with objectives including the increase of one-to-one technology and the creation of formal mentoring programs between K-12 students.

Chromebooks have been placed at the high and middle schools, and Chromebooks and iPads have been placed at Birchview Elementary School to aid that one-to-one technology, Meyer said.

“A lot of teachers are looking at setting up Google classrooms — a platform that you can create as your curriculum, and assignments can be turned in on it, so they can go home and access that same Google classroom,” Meyer said.

Using outdoor space as a learning tool is part of this goal as well, with Birchview and Ishpeming Middle School already using this space for science exploration and learning, she said.

“It’s amazing what they’re already doing in the short time we’ve been back to school,” Meyer said.

Several of those activities have been botanical in nature, involving students growing lima beans and studying the plants’ structure. Meyer said they then go into the woods and examine the differences of plants in other areas.

She mentioned another activity in which middle schoolers have been taking apple taste tests, and trying to clone apples to grow their own trees.

The fifth goal centers on communication and community engagement, with objectives increasing the number of staff increasing social media posts. Progress in this arena includes a review of a new website design, Meyer said.

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