Minnetonka School District prepares for back to school

(Photo courtesy of Minnetonka Schools) Kindergarten students from all over the Minnetonka School District participate in a practice bus ride Aug. 30 at Clear Springs Elementary. They learned how to line up, be safe and demonstrate good manners. (Photo courtesy of Minnetonka Schools) Minnetonka kindergarten students participate in a practice bus ride Aug. 30 at Clear Springs Elementary. (Photo courtesy of Minnetonka Schools) Clear Springs Elementary kindergarten teacher Katie Rolighed sets up her classroom. Rolighed is celebrating her fourth year teaching at the school.  (Photo courtesy of Minnetonka Schools) Clear Springs Elementary second-grade teacher Ursula Speedling sets up her classroom. Speedling is celebrating her 26th year teaching at the school. (Photo courtesy of Minnetonka Schools) Minnewashta Elementary kindergarten teacher Carly Brown sets up her classroom. Brown is celebrating her 10th year teaching for the district and is a Minnewashta alumni herself. (Photo courtesy of Minnetonka Schools) Linnea Ness is beginning her third year as a fourth grade Spanish Immersion teacher at Minnewashta Elementary. Before coming to the school she taught in Costa Rica.
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(Photo courtesy of Minnetonka Schools) Kindergarten students from all over the Minnetonka School District participate in a practice bus ride Aug. 30 at Clear Springs Elementary. They learned how to line up, be safe and demonstrate good manners.

By Paige Kieffer
[email protected]

During the past few weeks, officials at the Minnetonka School District have been busy preparing for back to school, which begins Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Superintendent Dennis Peterson said that the district is steadily growing, but overall their core goals have remained the same.

“We’ve had such great success with our students,” Peterson said. “The student achievement has gone up a lot and students are overall becoming more successful. We’re eager to help students achieve and prepare them for the future. That’s what we’ve always been about. It’s really more exciting now, because the achievement is so high and it takes a lot of work from the kids and the staff to make that happen again. We want to keep raising the bar.”

In the past 11 years, the student body has grown from 7,500 students to 10,008 students. This year, the student body grew by approximately 375 students.

As the district has been steadily growing, Peterson said there are concerns that the schools will soon reach capacity.

“We’ve added a lot of capacity, but we’re getting about to the end of growth and it’s something we’ll have to stop,” he said.

The district has added 15 new staff positions this year. Peterson said, “We’ve a large body of new teachers who are either replacing staff who have left or are on leave.”

Major new leadership positions include Freya Schirmacher, high school assistant principal; JacQui Getty, district communications director; and Carmen Ucker and Roger Andre, new VANTAGE directors.

In addition, the school board will have an election Tuesday, Nov. 7. Three candidates have filed to run for the there seats open on the board.

Those who filed include Board Treasurer John Holcomb, and school district parents Mike LeSage and Chris Vitale.

“They’re terrific candidates who are very involved in the community,” Peterson said.

Chair Pam Langseth and Clerk Heidi Garcia will step down this year.

This year the district will improve and advance on current school programs like Minnetonka Research and VANTAGE. There are no additional programs or curriculums that will be added this year.

Peterson said that this year the district would also like to further technology programs like Tonka Online, iPad program and Tonka Codes.

Peterson said, “We will continue to grow our iPad program and continue to grow our technology programs.”

Peterson added that the online classroom program, Tonka Online, would continue to provide accessibility and variety to students’ education. He said, “We want kids to have high level IB and AP classes”

Peterson said the district would continue to explore making Tonka Online a brand that they will use to generate revenue. The district officials hope to continue expanding the reach by recruiting more students to the online program from across the state.

Before school starts, the district has been working on making updates and finishing a variety of construction projects at each building.

Excelsior Elementary recently finished a media room remodel, where windows were replaces, walls painted and new carpet was installed.

The major project this year is updating the Groveland Elementary gym. The Scenic Heights and Clear Springs elementary will be updated next year.

All the gyms will be constructed to look like the current Minnewashta Elementary School’s gym, which includes bleachers and sufficient square footage to allow for school assemblies. The space would also serve as additional education space, lunchroom area and a band-orchestra-chorus venue that will service the growing student bodies.

“The gym at Groveland Elementary is making great progress,” Peterson said. “It will provide a great space for the school and certainly the community as a whole, who will all use it extensively.”

To keep updated on district news and events, visit minnetonkaschools.org.

Follow Paige Kieffer on Facebook at facebook.com/mnsunsailor.