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GCED's ALCs get state approval

The Goodhue County Education District's mid-level and high school area learning center programs have been given the go-ahead from the Minnesota Department of Education.

In a letter of approval from the MDE presented to the GCED board at its meeting Thursday night, the stamp of approval was given to the district's new mid-level ALC and Tower View Alternative Learning Center - which will continue functioning as it currently is.

"The letter from MDE gives us the official approval to move forward," Tower View principal Brian Cashman told the board. "It's a big deal. It's really exciting."

The approval also means that all five of GCED's member districts - Red Wing, Kenyon-Wanamingo, Cannon Falls, Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Goodhue - will be available for targeted services funding.

"This is an absolutely wonderful opportunity for all of our students," Cashman said.

GCED director Cherie Johnson said that the targeted services programs - which will provide interventions for struggling students - can start anytime during the coming school year.

"When districts are ready," she said.

The new mid-level ALC, which will be called Pathways, is expected to be up and running at the start of the coming school year. Pathways will serve at-risk students in grades six and seven who are in need of a non-traditional school environment.

A brochure included in the board's packet describes Pathways as "a school-within-a-school."

Enrolled students will spend about half of their school day with their Pathways peers. Instruction will include a 90-minute literacy block, exploratory classes (such as art and industrial technology) and study skills. The students will take math, social studies and science with their grade-level peers.

Though Pathways will be housed at Twin Bluff Middle School in Red Wing, students from any of the GCED's five member districts are eligible to attend. The program accommodates 12 students, though Cashman said they hope to expand the program to eighth- and ninth-graders in the future.

Cashman said that GCED and each district are currently working to identify students who would could benefit from the ALC. In the coming month, parents of those students will be notified and educated on the ALC, Cashman said.

"By the start of school, we're hoping that we'll have a fairly full roster," Cashman said.

In a separate action Thursday, the GCED board approved 5-0 a two-year agreement with the Red Wing School District to lease 2,666 square feet of space in Twin Bluff Middle School to house the Pathways program. The space includes two classrooms, furnishings, a Smartboard and some computers. GCED will pay the Red Wing School District $15,000 a year. The Red Wing School Board will approve the lease at an upcoming meeting.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.