Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Highland plans to upgrade course offerings for students

Nov 22, 2017

By Mike Jorgensen

When the Highland CSD School Board determined the goals for their five-year plan, “Learning Environment” was in the top 5.

This included upgrading course offerings for students. I have enjoyed the opportunity to closely examine the course and curriculum offerings for the district and to assist in making tweaks that more reflect courses of interest to students and that match career and industry needs.

A few course adjustments were made in a short term fashion. The district has successfully implemented Agriculture Education courses with their own instructor.

Three Agriculture related classes are currently taught at the High School in addition to those offered through an agreement with Lone Tree. The district will be expanding upon these offerings next year.

The district has hired a middle school science instructor for next year who also is certified in Agriculture Education. She will be teaching an Agriculture middle school exploratory as well as a high school Horticulture course.

These are in addition to her middle school curriculum. She will assist in the FFA activities. We are exploring the possibility of constructing a greenhouse to be used in conjunction with our courses.

Another course adjustment made was to focus the instruction of the Family Consumer Science studies.

The district is working to transform a generic curriculum into a more focused career pathway in Culinary Arts.

Partnerships with the Riverside Resort food service resources as well as local business and industry will provide our students with courses that could lead to potential placement in the food service industry as well as advanced placement in Kirkwood’s Hospitality programs.

Highland has also implemented a work placement program. Eleven students are currently working on the job for high school credit.

We look to expand upon this opportunity in the spring semester with additional job shadowing and internships with the local newspaper.

Students will get hands-on experiences in areas in which they have potential career interest.

One of the most exciting opportunities that will be available at the Highland High School next fall is the Aerospace Engineering Courses.

Highland has been selected to be the first district in the state of Iowa to pilot the Advanced Career Aerospace Engineering Curriculum, provided by the Southern Regional Education Board High Schools That Work.

In this four-course Advanced Career Curriculum, students will explore the designing, building, testing and analyzing science behind the forces and physical properties of planes, rockets and unmanned vehicles.

They will utilize tools such as Excel, Lab View and sensing systems to collect and analyze data. In addition, students will work collaboratively, manage projects, be creative and innovative, think critically, and solve problems as well as propose solutions to design problems.

Further, they will learn to apply literacy, mathematics and science concepts and use technology to effectively solve real-world, challenging problems with business and industry partners.

We are very excited to have been selected the first high school in Iowa to implement these cutting edge courses. Along with the Robotics class currently offered, we look to be a leader in the science and technology arena for a high school in the state of Iowa.

This program will equip students with the knowledge and skills to be successful in both college and the global workforce. Careers include systems, design, structural analysis, software and aerospace engineers.

Related occupations include avionics and radar technicians; materials planners; technical writers; air traffic controllers; pilots; drone designers; inspectors; and aircraft and airframe mechanics.

Two instructors will be sent to Auburn University this summer to begin the training for the implementation of this four course curriculum. The first course, Fundamentals of Aerospace Technology, will be offered next fall.

A new course will be added each of the next three years. We intend to offer seats to surrounding school districts who may have students interested in taking this course.

Feel free to contact Dr. Mike Jorgensen @ mjorgensen@highland.k12.ia.us or Derick Ball @ dball@highland.k12.ia.us for more information.

Mike Jorgensen is Superintendent of the Highland School District.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Dec 01, 2017 18:42

The Fairfield Community School District Board of Directors heard a report on student enrollment at its meeting Nov. 20.

The board was presented with documentation showing the certified enrollment for this fall was 1,591.04 students (not all students are fulltime which is why there are fractions). That number is a drop of 45.51 students from the prior year when enrollment was 1,626.55. Superintendent Laurie Noll said the decline entails losing about $300,000 in revenue from the state, because the state awards schools $6,591 per student.

Noll said the district has its finances in order and has planned for the cuts.

“We are stronger financially than we’ve been in two decades,” she said. “In our calculations, we anticipated losing 50 students, so we knew we were not going to receive as much aid from the state. That has been built into our five-year projections.”

Noll said the school district’s board of directors is very aware of the strain that declining enrollment places on the budget.

“If an employee leaves, we always ask, ‘Is this a position we can do without?’” Noll said.

At the same time, the board and administration want to ensure their students receive the best education available.

“We have made our curriculum a priority, and we’ve been able to provide the materials kids need,” she said.



Changes in enrollment can vary greatly from one year to the next. Fairfield has lost students two years in a row, but gained 12.5 students between the fall of 2014 and the fall of 2015. Overall, though, the district has shed about 37 students per year for the last 12 years. Open enrollment into and out of the district has been a wash, meaning the number of students enrolling here from outside the district (105 this fall) is about the same as the number who live in the district but go to school elsewhere (103 this fall). Open enrollment into the district appears to be on a slight uptick from 2005, when it was 76, compared to 102 students open enrolling out of the district that same year.

Here is Fairfield’s fall certified enrollment for the past 13 years rounded to the nearest whole number.

2017: 1,591

2016: 1,637

2015: 1,670

2014: 1,658

2013: 1,660

2012: 1,695

2011: 1,712

2010: 1,710

2009: 1,752

2008: 1,800

2007: 1,886

2006: 1,977

2005: 2,026


What’s happening?

What’s striking about Fairfield’s falling enrollment is that it’s happening at a time when the town’s population is stable and maybe even increasing. The number of people here was nearly the same in 2010 (9,454) as it was 10 years earlier when the population was 9,592. The U.S. Census Bureau released a new estimate of the town’s population earlier this year in which it stated the population had risen to 10,206 in 2016.

Noll said that, even if there might be more people in the district, those people don’t seem to be bringing many school-age children with them, or having them once they move here.

She has spoken with representatives of Fairfield Economic Development Association about the importance of attracting businesses to the area, which has a positive cascading effect on the school.


Not alone

Whatever is causing the decline in enrollment, it’s important to know that Fairfield is not alone. In fact, nearly all surrounding school districts are in the same boat, learning how to make do with less money as their enrollment numbers dip.

From the fall of 2006 to the fall of 2016, the Fairfield school district lost 17.2 percent of its students. As a point of comparison, here is the percentage drop in enrollment for neighboring districts during that same span:

Pekin: 16.8 percent

Cardinal: 16.3 percent

Van Buren: 18.3 percent

Harmony: 20.9 percent

Mt. Pleasant: 7.5 percent

Washington: 3.1 percent

Ottumwa: 2.6 percent

New London: 12.8 percent

WACO: 15.8 percent

Danville was among the few schools in southeast Iowa to gain students. Its student body rose 9.5 percent.

Data from the Iowa Department of Education show that, of the 333 districts in the state, 250 of them have lost students during that 10-year span. More specifically, almost one-third of them, 105, have declined between 10 and 19 percent, the category Fairfield is in. Noll said that the southeast and northwest portions of the state seem to be hurting the most for enrollment.


Where are they going?

While most of the state’s districts are watching their students move away, a select few have more than they can handle. Twelve districts have increased enrollment between 10-20 percent, and 18 have increased it more than 20 percent. Noll said these tend to be in large metropolitan areas. For instance, Iowa City has grown 24 percent, and Pleasant Valley in Davenport has jumped 41 percent.

Des Moines’ suburban schools are growing by leaps and bounds, too. They include schools such as North Polk, Ankeny, Johnston and especially Waukee, whose student body doubled since 2006, the largest increase of any district. Noll said a representative from Waukee spoke at a superintendents’ meeting a few years ago about how their district was handling such growth. It turns out that growing so rapidly carries its own set of problems.

“Waukee was still having to cut programs and lay off teachers, even while they were struggling to build buildings for all the students,” Noll said.

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