RHS expands course offerings for 2014-15

At its Feb. 19 meeting, the Rockford Area Schools Board of Education was presented with information regarding the proposed addition of business and computer technology classes at the Rockford High School. The courses will be coordinated through consultation with BestPrep (a Minnesota nonprofit organization that helps prepare students with business, career and financial literacy skills with hands-on experiences) and will include, with the possibility of some minor changes, Intro to Business, Computer Applications, Accounting 1, Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Web Design. The inclusion of these courses requires an additional full-time educator, something the board unanimously supported in a 6-0 vote.

This information was presented to the board by Rockford High School Principal Ryan Jensen, who additionally brought forward a comprehensive “Program of Studies” for students and parents.

The program includes several sections beginning with the registration process and graduation requirements. It further outlines programs RHS offers including Advance Placement, College in the Schools and guidelines for NCAA eligibility at Division 1 and 2 colleges, as well as a full listing of all course offerings and a faculty directory complete with professional biographies. The board found, and remarked, that the program was a clear, concise representation of what high school students and parents needed to know.

Also a point of discussion on RHS offerings, board members shared stories about district residents who were unaware of what the school had to offer in the way of programs like College in the Schools, for example, and may be making educational choices with insufficient information, choosing to opt out of the district and to a larger one.

With the expanded offerings the business, computer and agricultural courses bring to the high school experience, the board and administration agreed that the school was competitive with larger neighboring districts, and that communicating this information was an important element in capturing and retaining students within, and around, the Rockford district. Additionally, with building and grounds improvements, all district campuses will soon be better-orchestrated and equipped to support an evolving curriculum as well as additional extra curriculum activities.

Board Member Kathy Smith told the board that she urged parents who were unaware, or misinformed, of what the district offered to call the schools directly for more information.

Board Member Chuck Tryon suggested that the board may want to consider putting the same kind of effort forward that the district engaged in when getting the word out a few years back about the introduction of all-day, every-day (free) kindergarten at the Rockford Elementary Arts Magnet School, a highly successful campaign that boosted enrollment numbers with district and “out of district” attendees, and has subsequently demonstrated promising retention.

In other district news, Lorene Force has been hired on as a transition coordinator. This is an interim position that will aid in the transitions students are expected to experience in some of the bigger changes the district has planned for next year, notably moving the fifth-grade class from REAMS to the Rockford Middle School-Center for Environmental Studies. The elementary school is an arts-infused core curriculum campus, while the middle school is a STEM school (science, technology, engineering and math) school with an emphasis on environmental studies. The change is largely due to the remodeling and reconfiguration of classrooms at both campuses.

Force comes to Rockford with experience including serving as curriculum director of both Annandale and Dassel-Cokato public schools.

And, with all the programs and events taking place throughout the Rockford Area Schools, teachers, administrators, coaches, students and parents have had to exercise flexibility due inclement weather and a record number of school closings. This hasn’t, however, stopped the district’s newly formed dance team and expanded gymnastics program, just to name a few, from pulling out ratings and wins recognized by the board and administrators.

In addition, a new event is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at the Rockford Community Center. The high school music program is putting on a first-of-its-kind choir and band combined concert. The program will include pieces performed by the band and choirs together and will be professionally recorded with CDs available for purchase.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Rockford Area Schools Board of Education is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 17, in the district boardroom located in the lower level of the middle school.