by Jim Boyle
•Enrollment in the Elk River Area School District dropped for the first time in 20 years or more.
Superintendent Mark Bezek reported that the school district began the school year with about 80 to 100 fewer students than last school year.
•Spectrum High School and Middle School opened for business in a new building this year after existing as a high school run out of temporary spaces for six years. The school has added a middle school to its mix in a facility located in an Elk River business park.
•The Elk River Area School Board took baby steps in 2011 toward rebuilding the school district’s beleaguered band and choir program. The initial changes, which are part of a three-year commitment, focused on the middle school level, where music became a sixth-grade requirement and the option of study hall was eliminated. The hope was to re-engage students and build interest in the high school music program.
•Handke turned 80 years old this year.
•Rogers High School entered the world of musical theater for the first time to rave reviews with “Godspell.” Cast members and the musical itself was praised, not only at the middle school cafetorium where it was offered but also at the Orpheum Theater, where the production was recognized by the Hennepin Theater Trust. Three of the cast members were recognized by name and the overall show was praised, too.
•Spectrum High School put on the Way2Go Walk for Autism, which attracted nearly 200 and raised awareness in the community about the disorder.
•The Elk River Area School District held a series of community cafés to hear from a cross-section of citizens on a variety of questions. Their answers were recorded and tabulated to help kick off the strategic planning process.
•The Elk River Rotary launched a STRIVE program in at Elk River High School, which was completed by 14 students. The Rogers Rotary completed its third year of the program.
•Storyland, a hands-on learning lab created by the Minnesota Children’s Museum with plans for six stops across Minnesota over two years, has been a hit so far during its stint in Elk River.
During the first month alone, there were 720 visitors who chose to sign in for the “Trip Through Childhood Favorites.” District 728 Community Education and Early Childhood Family Education are coalition partners. The exhibit runs through Jan. 22.
•The Elk River Area School District jump-started its strategic planning efforts with a series of marathon sessions this past week to build on the work of three community cafés this past spring.
The results of the sessions were presented by Superintendent Mark Bezek, who noted the district’s current strategic plan is a half-dozen years old and in need of a tune-up.
People involved in the sessions included parents, teachers and administrators, as well as people from the faith community and the business community. The group also included three students, whose participation was appreciated and made an impact. They took part in the debate and wordsmithing of the values, objectives and strategies.
The group came up with some belief statements to help guide the planning.