NEW ULM - St. Paul's Lutheran Elementary School started the new school year with an increase in enrollment, new staff, an expansion in technology availability and use, and ambitious plans to improve facilities.
K-8 enrollment has increased to about 280 students, said Principal Greg Thiesfeldt. This is an increase of 24 from the 2012-13 closing enrollment. Two factors that contributed to the increase are a large kindergarten class of 40 following a graduating class of 26, and 16 transfers-in compared to six transfers-out. The school will manage the enrollment increase without additional full-time teachers, but it has added two paraprofessionals to assist the kindergarten teachers.
In 2013-14 St. Paul's will be served by two part-time teachers. They will teach art and religion classes. A new secretary began work July 8.
other tech updates
The school purchased two Smartboards, 60 Chrome books and storage units for the Chrome books. It upgraded its wireless service (installed in 2007) to handle increasing needs.
As a result, upper-graders will have access to one-to-one computing (one device per each seventh/eighth grader), with the ability to accomplish work via applications such as Google Aps. The Chrome books will give upper level students (grades 5-8) classroom access to the Internet; they will also facilitate research and writing activities without requiring access to the computer room. The new devices will eliminate the need for printing, carrying around portable memory devices, etc. and will free up more computer lab time for lower grades. Teachers have been trained on the use of the new devices and applications.
Minnesota Nonpublic School Accrediting
One requirement of MNSAA accreditation is an annual review of a school's strategic plan. MNSAA reviews and assesses progress every June. After this year's review MNSAA extended St. Paul's accreditation for another year through June 30.
Enrollment growth necessitated the addition of lockers 25 lockers.
About two years ago, a committee was formed to study the future facility needs of the school, said Thiesfeldt. The committee, called IDEAS, developed a list of enhancements. Two groups were the formed - a building committee and a finance committee. In recent months, they have started the process of planning a school facility improvement project.
Many possibilities have been discussed, including additional classroom space, relocation of the main offices, updates to the existing building and a second gymnasium. Exterior changes considered by the committee include different and more efficient traffic patterns, additional parking, playground expansion and general exterior enhancements. An optimistic timeline places the completion of the project as soon as the fall of 2015, projects Thiesfeldt.
A pre-K expansion study committee has prepared recommendations related to the expansion of the preschool program. The expansion depends on future facility expansion and may necessitate a state licensure for the program.