The Kingsland school district won't be taking part next year in the flexible learning year (FLY) consortium, after all.

In fact, it appears no district in southeastern Minnesota will be going ahead with FLY during the 2011-12 school year, although several plan to participate in shared professional development next year with an option to join FLY the 2012-13 school year.

Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald told the school board during a regular meeting Monday, March 21, that at the time of the meeting there remained just four school districts in southeastern Minnesota that hadn't voted down FLY for this year. The consortium had interest from 25 districts to start, but the number gradually dropped as districts got feedback from district residents and staff. McDonald had talked to the other three superintendents prior to the meeting and told the board Monday night the number would drop further, likely to zero.

The Kingsland board that night had looked at a proposed calendar if the district went ahead with FLY. It would have started school Aug. 15 with in-service days before the first student day on Aug. 18. The first semester would have ended Dec. 22 before winter break and the last day of school would have been May 18 with graduation that Friday night.

Board member Kristin Beck said she preferred that calendar, but it was hard to "go out on a limb" without the other districts participating.

McDonald pointed out that the focus isn't on the calendar, but on student development and the early start allowed an emphasis on education as well as the most quality time before state assessments in the spring.

Board Chairperson Doug Plaehn said he was also disappointed that the other districts backed out, but he along with the full board voted to delay implementation of FLY for one year. The board will take another look at the concept next year.

Some districts in the area wanted to wait a year to see if the concept improved assessment scores in the schools that are participating in southwestern Minnesota. Those results won't be known until after the deadline for application this year.

McDonald pointed out that other districts are still very interested in professional development and he recommended Kingsland go ahead with the shared professional development portion of the consortium. The deadline to commit to participate in that is April 28.

The 2011-12 calendar approved by the board had some days set aside for professional development. For example, Monday, Oct. 24, is one of them, meaning students will have a five-day break starting with the Education Minnesota (formerly MEA) conference days off on Thursday, Oct. 20.

Under the calendar favored by the board, the first day of school will be Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day, which is the earliest school can start as dictated by the state unless districts have special permission. Nov. 4 is the end of the first quarter. Winter break runs from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1 and the semester ends Jan. 20. March 23 is the end of the third quarter and May 25 is the last day for seniors. June 1, a half-day, is the final day of classes for the remaining students.

Graduation next school year will be Friday, May 25, at 7 p.m. That is a change from the Sunday graduation that has been tradition in the past. The reason for the change is due to feedback from a survey the district did on preferences for graduation. The Friday before Memorial Day was a strong favorite of district residents, of which 85 participated with many leaving informative comments, said McDonald.

In other business, McDonald and Administrative Assistant Trent Langemo gave an update on College in the Schools. The program is a collaboration between Riverland Community College in Austin and Kingsland High School.

Qualified teachers at Kingsland must hold a master's degree that meets certain conditions so they can teach courses earning college credit on site at the school in Spring Valley. The program not only benefits students, but also faculty members as they are working with college faculty and can exchange ideas, noted McDonald.

McDonald pointed out that post-secondary enrollment options (PSOE) is still offered at Kingsland, but that program isn't right for all students as it has less structure and more expenses with travel costs. Students must qualify for College in the Schools by either class ranking or scores on standardized tests.

Langemo said the program will be phased in over three years. In the first year, curriculum will include social studies, including European history, and science, including chemistry. Students may also receive college and high school credits in Spanish and horticulture with possibilities of courses in college algebra and trigonometry.

In the second year, college credit courses will include music for non-music majors and economics. In the third year, biology will be added with more English course opportunities being added.

"We're excited, but we can't promise the entire boat in one year," said Langemo about the process of phasing the program in.

Students planning to take the courses will need to prepare for additional homework and also show signs of maturity and discipline to take on the challenge of more rigor in coursework, noted Langemo.

The administrator also talked about the curriculum for Project Lead the Way. Fifth graders will have courses on flight and space while other grades up to ninth will focus on other science and technology instruction. High school courses include engineering related courses as well as digital electronics and computer integrated manufacturing.

District officials have talked to Mayo Clinic and plan to talk to Hormel about partnering on the science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) initiatives. High school students can test for college credit from the University of Minnesota at the end of each course.

Other items handled by the board March 21 include the following.

• The board accepted the resignation of Roberta Harris, a speech clinician, who found an opportunity in another district. Also, third grade teacher Laura Mangan, who has been in the district many years, is retiring. She will be recognized at an upcoming meeting.

• Beck presented the 90-day superintendent evaluation, which was delayed as it took some time to get all the information put together. She said comments from staff and board members were all positive as McDonald has a strong work ethic and his leadership is moving the district forward in a positive direction.

• McDonald said sign companies have been contacted about the possibility of placing an electronic message board outside the school in Spring Valley. If the prices come in right, the goal is to have it in place by the time school begins in the fall.

• Principal Jim Hecimovich said the curriculum schedule is mostly on track and students should be registered for classes by the end of April. He also said that kindergarten enrollment appears to be up for next year, but the district will know more Monday, March 28, after a meeting in which parents sign their children up for next year.

• Hecimovich and Langemo attended administrative training for Positive Behavior Intervention Supports, a program for which Kingsland was chosen as a successful grant site. Minnesota Department of Education officials will train staff at the middle and high schools.

• Mike Lecy was hired as full-time custodian to replace Tanner Niemeyer, who had previously resigned.

• Brad Erichsen and Tony Calabrese were recognized for their contributions to communications from the school by putting together a video for the school's website. Roger Ruesink was recognized for donating wood to use in the industrial arts department. The Spring Valley Tribune was recognized for providing an education page for readers to learn more about academics and school programs.

• The agenda will be reorganized to allow for, what Plaehn called, a better flow to the meetings, with, for example, all new business items together and the aim noted for each one, rather than being organized by aims.

• Student Council members reported that the next event is an FFA banquet April 10 and then an arts awards event in May.

• Chris Erichsen, a 2004 graduate of Kingsland, was recognized for his accomplishments in meeting the qualifying standard for the Olympic trials in the marathon.

• Spring assistant coaches were hired. They include Brad Erichsen for track, Doug Bergey and Jeremy Tesch for baseball, Alex Broadwater for golf, and Emily DeVries for softball.

• Business manager Kathy Beevers reported that expenses projected through February are right on track. She reminded the board that it needs to approve a budget before July 1 and to keep an eye on what the state is doing as solutions to solve its budget deficit may trickle down to the school districts.

• Later in the meeting, McDonald emphasized that the budget needs to be studied very carefully in the next two months. He said many districts are planning on reductions due to uncertainty of what the state will be doing. He said Kingsland's finances are in good shape at this point.

• Director of building and grounds Jon Dols said there is a need for a ramp to the stage in order to meet ADA standards.