Wadena-Deer Creek community gets first look at school 'listening session' results
Consultants from ICS were at the Robertson Theatre at Wadena-Deer Creek High School on Monday, March 13 to share information gathered in the January discussions.
WADENA — A series of seven "listening sessions" were conducted with Wadena-Deer Creek students, staff, administrators, school board and community members back in January to determine priorities for future improvement to school district facilities.
The results of those listening sessions were shared with the public for the first time at a community meeting held Monday, March 13 in the Robertson Theater at WDC High School.
Consultants Lori Christenson, Glenn Chiodo and Lynn Dyer of ICS conducted the meeting, which was attended by a small crowd of about a dozen people. Essentially, what those attendees learned was that while there were some important answers provided by the sessions, there is still a lot more work to be done before a facilities improvement plan can be drawn up and presented for approval.
The listening sessions are also just one part of the equation: The school board is also looking at educational adequacy, demographics and other analytical reports prepared by ICS to assist them in their efforts.
"We're just getting started on a plan to address the needs," Christenson said, adding, "We will continue to have the community involved (in the planning process)."
That being said, Christenson continued, the school board has already begun reviewing the data (which was presented to them at board work sessions held on Feb. 1 and 13 ), and is "moving toward some solutions."
The listening sessions, which were conducted between Jan. 9-18, did provide some answers on where the district's priorities might lie. All of the listening session participants were asked some common questions, with one or two directed toward the specific group involved.
One of the questions that ICS had never presented in one of these sessions before was to ask what the school's mission statement meant to each group. The answers provided internally (i.e., by staff, administrators, school board and students) were a little different than those provided externally (by the community), but still had some common themes — much as the questions about facility needs did.
"There were some commonalities," Chiodo said.
Some of the more prevalent themes that came out of the sessions were that parking at each school facility is challenging at certain times and could do with a design update, that updates to outdoor athletic facilities — particularly seating — are much needed, and that there is a need for more educational space for career and technical education (CTE) course offerings at the high school.
Also covered at Monday's community meeting was an "educational adequacy" report that had been prepared for the district by ICS. The report evaluates the district's facilities based on Minnesota Department of Education guidelines.
Eighteen categories were evaluated, including:
- Classroom size and sustainability
- Cafeteria/kitchen and serving areas
- Security and supervision
- Main office, nurse and support services
- Science classrooms and labs
- Art classrooms and labs
- Music classrooms, practice areas, etc.
- Teacher and staff collaborative planning areas
- Student commons and break-out areas
- Physical education and athletic facilities, including gyms, locker rooms, pool, etc.
- Site suitability (green spaces, playgrounds, room for expansion, etc.)
- Parking and bus drop-off/pickup areas
- Library and media center location, size, layout, etc.
- Special education and support services
- Auditoriums and performing arts spaces
- Career and technical education (CTE)
- Hallways, lockers, washrooms, maintenance facilities, etc.
Each of these categories was given either a green (adequate), yellow (questionable) or red (inadequate) flag to indicate how well the facilities met MDA standards — but what Dyer emphasized was that these were "guidelines, not mandates."
The analysis showed that, following improvements that were made districtwide in 2017, the middle and high school facilities were mostly rated green in all categories, with a few exceptions — parking, auditoriums and performing arts spaces, and CTE spaces, which were all rated yellow.
At the elementary school, however, there were still a few categories rated yellow, and one category — special education — that was in the red. The categories that received yellow ratings were parking, site suitability, student commons, staff lounge/collaborative planning areas, main office/nurse/supportive services, security and supervision.