B-B-E eyes expansion of manufacturing curriculum with neighboring schools

In recognition of the strong manufacturing base located in western Stearns County, the North Crow Collaborative is looking to expand its manufacturing class offerings. This group of schools includes Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, New London-Spicer and Paynesville.

Part of this expansion includes inviting Sauk Centre to the group, which recently took place.

Superintendent Patrick Walsh reported to the school board on Monday (March 15) in Belgrade that Sauk Centre has a very successful welding program with their own set of manufacturing curriculum.

"The issue is, their programs are not full. They have room to accommodate more kids," said Walsh.

"We have Bayer Built Woodworks and Steel Tank, among others, who are strong players in the field."

The idea is that students could earn a manufacturing certificate over a two-year period in high school. The goal is to include high school, college and industry-level credentials upon successful completion.

"Part of this could be a manufacturing tour, where kids take one day a week to tour manufacturers in our region. Part of the class can be offered online to reduce the travel component," said Walsh.

Adding to the appeal of the program is possibilities of internships and apprenticeships if a student can find the right fit with an employer.

The main stumbling block is how to incorporate the tours of high school students at a manufacturing site. For safety reasons, such events would have to be closely managed and well-planned ahead of time.

"For liability reasons, some manufacturers just couldn't allow 20 high school kids on their premises during the day. That's where we'd have to put some extra thought to make it work," said Walsh.

Walsh mentioned having just one or two students at a time visiting a specific manufacturer.

"What we need is for all the manufacturers across our region to get involved. This expands our ability to engage the students on a consistent basis."

"I think we've developed a stronger basis in recent years to pull this off locally," said Walsh. "We just need four to six kids from B-B-E to be a part of this and pull it off."

Walsh stressed that this concept is not limited to the manufacturing trades. One component of Paynesville's high school curriculum focuses on health care, and recently they opened an automotive center. At New London-Spicer, students build a house.

B-B-E has hosted Paynesville and NL-S students for accounting and teacher education programs.

"We've started to get this rolling again. There's a lot of energy with this, and the area principals and counselors are on board. We're inviting any local manufacturer who wants to get involved. They can also help sponsor the programs. In Sauk Centre, they have a CEO program that's solicited about $3,000 from 10 different local employers in Sauk Centre, Melrose and Albany." said Walsh.

One board member mentioned getting Bakko Brothers from near Terrace on board.

Student services coordinator Laura Spanier said, "We had something lined up with them last winter, but then COVID hit. We know they're open to the idea of student tours and getting students involved in what they do."

Class of 2021 graduation

With graduation less than two months away, Walsh said that they have heard many expressions of interest that they maintain the fireworks display and move the start of graduation to 7:30 p.m. It appears likely at this point that graduation will be held in the football stadium with a capacity limit of 250. Walsh did not rule out having a back-up date for possible weather conflicts.

Elementary report

Elementary principal Rick Gossen said that parent-teacher conferences are going very well, with most being conducted via Zoom. When requested, parents and teachers are able to meet in person. "We are very happy with how this is going; we're getting really great feedback," he said.

Gossen also mentioned one of the exciting aspects of the renovation project, which is staff discussions along the lines of, "Where will we put this? Where does this go? Where will they go?" While major changes aren't taking place with the building project, the school will have a new footprint to work with. Gossen said, "It's been unbelievable to see how fast the building is changing."

Gossen noted that the new cafeteria and kitchen space will be "tremendous" and will really get people excited about the project once it's ready to unveil to the public this fall.

District goals

During his superintendent report, Walsh explained what was discussed at a recent board work session on district goals.

"The motto 'Every Student, Every Way, Every Day' is what's really driving what we're doing with personalized learning," he said. "Our vision of a small town, high-performing district that prepares learners to be prepared for a rapidly-changing world."

"We need to add '21st Century district' to this. We want to be at the cutting edge of education. We don't have an abundance of learners to choose from in our borders. If they live close to another school, and they're 20 minutes from us, we have to be very good in order for people to make the decision to go with B-B-E."

"Positive relationships - this is what we want to expand on. We need to keep setting high expectations. We have a way to remember that with 'Jaguar Pride' that gives a reflection of our vision for our students."

"We want relevant experiences for all learners. We also need to improve on how we communicate this to the public."


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