Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Officials mull moving WisdomQuest to mobile classroom on MPCHS campus

Superintendent hopes decision is made at June 11 school board meeting
Jun 05, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Retired teacher and volunteer at WisdomQuest Diana Juntunen guides a student through her math homework. The school district is considering moving the alternative school to a mobile unit on the Mt. Pleasant Community High School campus next school year.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


WisdomQuest Education Center is going to look a little different next year.

As teacher Deb Vroom finishes her tenure this year at the alternative school, administration is considering all its options moving forward, from closing their doors to moving into a mobile classroom located on the high school campus.

The decision is being weighed after Vroom announced her retirement after 23 years at the school. WisdomQuest principal Tyler Rodgers said that Vroom’s certifications in English, Social Studies, and speech — to name a few — would be difficult to replicate in one teacher.

“That kind of started the conversation,” Rodgers said. “We made a list of what we felt were important qualities of a good alternative school like teacher-student relationships, student advocates and their own place, and we weighed the options.”

Funding for the mobile unit would come from the school district’s physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) or from the capital project fund. District Superintendent John Henriksen said if the school board approves moving forward with a mobile WisdomQuest building, they would either buy or lease the unit. Henriksen has spoken with a few vendors, including Sid Davis from Davis Homes in Mt. Pleasant, to gather more information on prices for a mobile unit.

“I think the board is very serious in their consideration,” Henriksen said. “The whole idea is how can we provide education programming to fit (students’) needs.”

Moving the students into a mobile classroom at Mt. Pleasant Community High School is the favored option among administration and teachers — closing the school was never a seriously considered option — but some students aren’t so sure about being back on their old stamping grounds.

“Horrible idea,” WisdomQuest student Christian Brooks said. “I came here to get away from high school. I just don’t like the people at the high school.”

Others would be on board as long as they don’t have to step foot inside the high school. WisdomQuest student Michale Bruns recalled the anxiety attacks he had when a student at MPCHS. Even just attending a mandatory assembly in the gym earlier this year regarding school safety gave him waves of anxiety.

WisdomQuest is where Bruns found a new start. From experience, Bruns believes it’s a really good program for students who struggle in school. The small class sizes are a big part of that, he said, contrasting the class sizes at MPCHS where teachers are trying to meet the needs of 20 to 30 students in each class period.

He doesn’t count the decision out, however. Bruns added that if he had a better history with the school, he thinks it would be a good option, giving students the chance to take more elective classes.

As does August Bunger, who said working from a mobile classroom would be a great way to do things. “We wouldn’t have to go into the high school if we didn’t want to,” he said.

Bunger went to MPCHS for four years before he began working to complete his high school career at WisdomQuest. In a building with only a few teachers and three classrooms, Bunger doesn’t have to worry about navigating hallways. It’s quiet in the WisdomQuest building.

WisdomQuest teacher Diane Brooks thinks it might be a little too quiet, though. With students sitting at their desks, completing all their classwork on computers with their headphones on, Brooks hopes a move to a mobile classroom would help students engage more with new teachers.

“I think a benefit would be having new faces. Learning to deal with another adult is an important step toward adulthood,” Brooks said. On the flip side, Brooks knows the importance for WisdomQuest students to really get to know their teachers.

WisdomQuest students are already invited to sign up for any elective at MPCHS they would like, but the distance from school to school can be challenging. With a WisdomQuest building right on campus, students would be able to walk over to the high school for classes such as art, culinary, welding or automotive as well as get extra help from teachers.

Diana Juntunen is a retired teacher helping WisdomQuest students with math this year. It isn’t Juntunen’s first time working with some of the students, who she said gave her a lot of trouble at the high school. At WisdomQuest, however, they are eager to understand concepts and finish the work.

“I see a lot of advantages being near the high school where they can take extra-curriculars and there are math teachers there to help them too,” Juntunen said, while in the same breath voicing concern that having WisdomQuest so close to the high school would affect what works about the alternative education. “We need to be careful keeping what’s been successful about it,” she said.

At the district’s Finance Committee meeting and Policy Committee meeting Friday, June 1, there will be deep discussions about whether a mobile classroom would be the right programming move for WisdomQuest. An official decision will not be made at this time.

If the school board does approve a mobile classroom, Henriksen said it would be tough to get done by the time school starts in the fall on Aug. 23 because of city requirements on where a mobile unit can be placed. He foresees the move happening in October or November. Henriksen said what should be done with the current WisdomQuest building has not been discussed.

If the school board doesn’t approve moving WisdomQuest to a mobile classroom, Henriksen said he hopes to continue to find teachers willing to go to WisdomQuest to teach extracurricular classes such as Dawn Wiley, a teacher at Harlan and Lincoln Elementary schools who taught art to students at WisdomQuest this year.

“We’ll continue to enhance their program as much as we can,” Henriksen said. “We’ll have teachers at WisdomQuest whether we’re located up town or at the high school. We wouldn’t force any kid for whatever reasons to go back into the high school and take a class.”

At the end of the day, Rodgers hopes the school board will move forward to do whatever is best for the students. The last thing he wants is to make them uncomfortable and have the move be a reason students don’t finish high school.

“Throughout the years there’s been students who weren’t going to be successful at the high school. WisdomQuest gave them a place to go and finish earning their diploma,” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of community members who have graduated from WisdomQuest doing great things for the community … It gives them a new start and a chance to reset and get done what they need to get done.”

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