Principals touting new way to learn

FAIRMONT — Principal Kim Niss and Assistant Principal Andy Traetow on Tuesday provided the Fairmont School Board an update on the high school’s Personalized Learning journey.

Personalized Learning is an approach to learning and instruction designed around individual learner readiness, strengths, needs and interests. Traetow said the vision really began during the 2017-2018 school year, but the district really hit the ground running last year by implementing Personalized Learning throughout the school.

Traetow said Personalized Learning, along with the school’s new flexible learning spaces and standards-based grading — new in the seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms — are all helping the school drive toward 21st century learning skills.

This past summer, for the second time, Niss, Traetow and a handful of teachers went to the Personalized Learning Summit in Chanhassen.

“It was a great collaborative event with teachers across the state who are trying to move the notion of giving students more voice and choice in their learning and creating more flexibility to really meet individual learner needs and that gave us a lot of momentum moving into this school year,” Traetow said.

“We were very excited when we saw a huge connection between the work we’re doing here in Fairmont to what we were hearing at the Summit,” Niss said.

She said they are working on being more intentional in incorporating Personalized Learning into the school’s Strategic Plan, and they are working on implementing Personalized Learning throughout all grades at the school.

When it comes to effectively communicating between staff, students and families, Niss and Traetow also demonstrated two new websites, one for seventh- and eighth-grade students and parents, and one for students in grades 9-12.

Traetow explained that in trying to keep parents updated, they do not want to flood email inboxes with updates so they created a website that includes weekly updates from teachers. The website is linked on the school’s website.

“So far we’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from parents in the initial rollout of the website,” Traetow shared.

Niss said that in creating the 9-12 student website, she worked with the student council over the summer and heard what students wanted to be able to find on a website. She said students wanted the website to be cell phone-friendly so they could easily navigate it on their phones.

“The student council asked for some links to some of the things they would want to find quick, like E-pass, the lunch menu, daily announcements and anytime we have an altered schedule,” Niss said.

There’s also information about the math center and writing center, extracurricular activities, a bullying report form and links to staff email addresses.

In other school news:

o Superintendent Joe Brown reported the district has received about 20 applications for the business manager position, which needs to be filled given Sue Nelson’s upcoming retirement. Of the 20 applications, Brown said only one person has extensive experience working with a public school district.

o Brown provided an update on current enrollment numbers for the start of the school year. There are 825 students at the elementary school and 832 students at the Jr./Sr. High School, putting total enrollment at 1,657.