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Students in public and private schools have been introduced to working with iPads this year. Photo by Paula Quam

Enrollment up in area schools, technology at the forefront

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Schools, often called the “heart of the community”, are certainly that in Becker County.  And while they all strive for excellence in educational opportunities, they also all have their own special ways of shining.

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Detroit Lakes

The Detroit Lakes Public School District is a conglomerate of five schools — Roosevelt Elementary, Rossman Elementary, the Middle School, the High School and the Lincoln Education Center. (Private Catholic school, Holy Rosary, also sits in the heart of downtown Detroit Lakes.)

The growing district has now reached 2,795 students grades kinder-garten through 12, which is up 100 kids from only two years ago.

According to Detroit Lakes School District Education Director Lowell Niklaus, open enrollment accounts for roughly 315 of those students.

“And so I think that really says something about our schools — they’re not coming here for no reason, and it’s not sports,” said Niklaus.

In fact, it’s the growth of enrollment over the years that are creating what school officials call “a good problem,” as they now look to the future.

The school board is currently hoping the community will support its intentions to build a new K-3 elementary school once it pins down an adequate location.       

In the meantime, Niklaus says the district will continue trying to find ways to “teach to the standard,” and he says that means embracing technology “so that educators there teach to the kids’ future rather than to our past.”

And for Detroit Lakes fifth graders, this has meant changing the way they do things, as this year they put down some of their old text books and picked up their new iPads.

The district’s iPad initiative put the devices in the hands of every fifth grader, and so far school leaders are glad they did.

“It’s been a very positive thing at the schools,” said Niklaus, “it’s amazing how well and how how in depth they’ve become at doing things on them.”

In fact, many school leaders are hoping the iPad initiative continues to grow, first into 6th grade, then through 8th.   

The district offers a variety of Advanced Placement courses to enable high school students to get a “jump start” on their post-secondary education.

“I think a staple of DL high school is college preparedness,” said Detroit Lakes School Superintendent Doug Froke, “as we offer a wide range of post-secondary or college class-room opportunities so that when they graduate from DLHS, they’ve already got those college credits in their portfolio.”

Its Area Learning Center provides educational alternatives for those kids who may struggle, academically and otherwise, in a traditional school setting, Niklaus added.

Thus, the district provides classroom assistance to students on both ends of the learning spectrum — those who are excelling, and those who need more support.

At the Lincoln Education Center, the district provides a full spectrum of community education courses and activities for all ages, in areas including computers, driver’s education, crafts and hobbies, safety courses, trips, tours as well as cultural, athletic and youth enrichment activities.

The center also houses Early Childhood Family Education and Early Childhood Special Education.

Frazee-Vergas

The Frazee school district has gone through a lot of changes over the past couple of years, and continued into this spring with the hiring of a new superintendent.

Chuck Cheney, who agreed to serve a couple of years in the position, is handing the reigns over to Terry Karger, a former principal at Frazee.

The district is also going one on one with technology, as they, too, are purchasing iPads for its fifth, sixth and ninth graders for the 2013-14 school year.

The school district continues to boast high test scores academically and high achievements in other areas like its Future Farmers of America organization, its newly formed robotics program and of course, wrestling.

Its wrestling program remains top-notch as the team has made it to state seven out of the past eight years.

Lake Park-Audubon

Change came fast at Lake Park-Audubon, too, as students not only continued to get used to their newly remodeled and expanded elementary school, but also began the year in their new high school.    

Grades 7-12 are wrapping up their first year in the new, $17.5 million dollar, 105,000 square foot building.

The facilities, which uses geothermal heating, has a gym that holds 1,000 spectators and customized classrooms, is located on the west edge of Lake Park.

The facility also provides wireless Internet access and is monitored by 50 cameras spread out throughout the grounds.

In the meantime, the school district sold the old high school building and surrounding land to Mono Investments for $201,000.

A spokesman for the group says they plan to work hand in hand with the city to repurpose the building for possibilities like housing, a museum and city offices.

Waubun-Ogema

The Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District has also been going through tremendous change over the past few years

In March of 2010, the district was identified as a “turn around school” after receiving low test scores.         

School leaders rallied and have since taken a $1.4 million grant and used it to implement change.

Some of that change came in the form of personnel, as the district has a new principal in the high school.  Eric Martinez took over the position in the fall of 2012 after out-going principal, Mike Cary, took a position in Bismarck.

Martinez was the assistant principal at the Detroit Lakes High School for seven years, but decided to help become part of the team that is now helping students in the Bomber district raise test scores and attendance.

An hour of instruction has also been added to the curriculum daily, and professional learning communities were formed to ensure teachers were as effective as possible.

Elementary Principal Travis Nagel has also implemented early screening at the school to detect developmental delays in order to give students the best possible start.

But an area where the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District needs no help in its technology, as iPads and other app devices are used daily.

“We’re always trying to improve, and I think we’re pretty top notch in technology,” said Superintendent Brandon Lunak.

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