Pathways High School alternative education program to remain downtown

Work to continue to implement high quality interventions and services for students

Lakeville Area Public Schools’ Pathways High School, Pathways Adult Education and COMPASS (formerly known as Lakeville Area Learning Center or ALC) will remain in its current location as the district works to improve social emotional and academic supports for students at risk of failing.


A proposal brought before the Board of Education at a study session in December 2016 called for moving the Pathways program to both Lakeville North and Lakeville South high schools to keep more students in their home schools, increase access to course offerings and address equity issues. The proposal also called for expanding the COMPASS Program to serve students in grades 9-12 who need a more unique and personalized learning option at the downtown location. COMPASS currently serves students in grades 7 and 8. Board members questioned whether Lakeville South High School had adequate space to house the program, expressed concern about the need to relocate a special education classroom to accommodate Pathways at South, and felt that the possibility of teachers needing to travel between the two schools would compromise the program.


“We’re still looking at creative pathways to help students earn diplomas and begin postsecondary experiences that allow them to hit the ground running,” said Renae Ouillette, executive director of Student Services and Special Education. But moving the Pathways program to the two high schools may be premature.


“Many factors have changed since the team began its work three years ago to explore ways the district could better serve students who are falling behind in credit attainment,” Ouillette said.


The district is studying projected growth patterns and capacity through its Facilities Master Plan process that could yield information to ensure a successful long-term solution on programming and location. The district is continuing to assess students’ needs for social-emotional support that could help the district better serve their needs.


Moreover, Pathways was one of three schools in the district with teams who earned Teacher-Powered grants in January from the Minnesota Department of Education. The grants are intended to help with the implementation of teacher-led innovation. The Pathways team will explore ways to create a learning environment that reduces barriers and an instructional model that equips students to identify and pursue personal success. Ouillette said administrators want the Pathways team to to develop their recommendations as part of the continuous improvement process.


In the interim, the district plans to work with the high school principals, their administrative groups and their shared-leadership teams to refine the referral process, increase understanding and support for the social and emotional well-being of all students and develop ways to intervene at the point where students begin to struggle, said Barb Knudsen, the district’s former Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, who has served as a consultant on the Pathways redesign project.


“We need to have district-wide emphasis on social emotional well-being and to develop understanding of how it affects students” Ouillette said. The district also needs to provide professional development for staff members so they can better understand and support students who are facing life challenges.


Although the program may not be moving to the high schools at this time, there are still a number of enhancements taking place that will benefit learners. “The staff at Pathways are using project-based learning and other methods that are engaging for students” said Cliff Skagen, the Pathways Program Director.
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