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With first evening class: Fairmont Area gets a bright idea

A NEW WAY TO LEARN — Louise Ostlie, center, speaks to Gavin Hand, left, and Parker Vetter, both juniors, during the electricity and magnetism class at Fairmont High School. The class is the first evening class offered at the school.

FAIRMONT — Fairmont High School is offering an evening class to its students for the first time this semester. The class — electricity and magnetism — is taught by Louise Ostlie.

The school has previously offered a welding class during the summer and on Saturdays during the winter. But the science class is the first to be held in the evening.

Superintendent Joe Brown said the school board set aside $600,000 two years ago to be used for classes taught outside the regular school day. Some of this money has funded the summer and Saturday welding academy.

Brown said Ostlie suggested offering the class.

“I’m so pleased we have a veteran teacher like Louise Ostlie who was willing to step forward and say she wanted to try something,” he said.

“We use electricity every day,” Ostlie said. “I think kids need to understand the essential pieces of it and how electricity works in different circuits.”

The class covers electrical circuits and how magnetism is incorporated into electricity. Ostlie said they do a lot of hands-on activities via labs they build upon every week.

The class meets from 3:30-7:30 p.m. every Monday. There are four students in it. They have full schedules so they are earning an additional credit.

Ostlie said they have taken a field trip to Estherville, Iowa, to see how electricity is generated through wind turbines. There they also discussed different electrical careers.

“They could be someone who goes into the towers and does maintenance,” she explained. “Or an electrician. They could go into aviation and work with electricity, or they could be a lineman.”

Ostlie said the students in the class are there by choice. None need the class to graduate.

“It’s nice to see kids wanting to learn,” she said. “It’s been nice to hear some of these kids say, ‘I might as well use my time to learn something.'”

While there are only four students in the class, Brown sees it as the start of something new, and big.

“There’s nothing magical that says kids can only learn from 8 until 3,” he said. “We only use our schools 15 percent of the year. Eighty-five percent of the time our kids are not in class. They might be using our facilities for sports or other extracurricular activities but they’re not in class.”

Brown believes the traditional school day is on an old-fashioned schedule that needs to change. He has gone to the Capitol on several occasions to testify on a bill that would provide state aid for students taking vocational classes outside of the regular school day. While the bill has not passed, Brown plans to keep trying.

“Minnesota needs to replace 200,000 skilled workers in the next two years. The current system we have in place isn’t going to do it,” he said.

Speaking of the new science class, Brown sees it as just the first. Looking down the road, he said the district might look at turning the Principals of Flight class into a longer class held on weekends so students actually have time to get up in the air.

“I think Fairmont is a trend-setter,” Brown said. “I think someday we’re going to look back and ask, ‘Really? At one time they only had school from 8-3?'”

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