While discussions are just beginning, Superintendent Olson says the status quo is not an option due to changing state guidelines. He says closure is a possibility.

If New Paths Area Learning Center, headquartered in downtown Crookston and a place for high school students who have struggled in the traditional classroom setting for whatever reason to continue their education, remains open, it’s going to have to run differently than it is now, Superintendent Jeremy Olson told the Crookston School Board this week.

New “compliance issues coming down from the state” would require that the ALC change its hours of service so that it compares more closely with Crookston High School, Olson explained. Currently, there is not a lot of consistent, organized classroom time at the portable classroom building located at the northwest corner of the property once home to Crookston Central High School, but more of students doing independent study projects and getting academic assistance when they need it. “There are some some concerns with how we currently function as far as methodologies at the ALC, too, which are trickier to get a hold of,” the superintendent continued. 

A discussion on the future of New Paths ALC was on this week’s board agenda. Instructor Joan Darco was joined by other ALC staff at the meeting, and Darco addressed the board during the open forum at the start of the meeting to stress the fact that at this point the future of the ALC is only being discussed, and that any decisions, especially a decision to close it, have not yet been made. Darco said ALC leaders have had very limited discussions so far with administration, and that they have questions they’d like answers and ideas they’d like to be considered before any decisions are made. She thinks more specific guidance is needed from the Minnesota Department of Education as well.

Olson agreed, saying that the discussion was in its early stages.

One thing that needs to be a part of the discussion is finances, he added, noting that, financially, the ALC “doesn’t help the district.” If it closed, a “large chunk” of compensatory funding from the state would funnel into the high school.

More important than dollars and cents, however, is the impact on student learning if the ALC is significantly modified or shut down, the superintendent stressed.

“There’s the question of what do we do with the students (if the ALC closes)? How does that impact student learning? …What none of us want to do is put a situation in place that deprives students of an education,” Olson said. “We want to state publicly that we are looking at all options. This is the preliminary learning stage. We need to meet with staff. There are going to have to be changes if we continue with the ALC; we do not have the option of doing things at the ALC the same way.”

One option is putting an Alternative Learning Program in place  instead of the actual ALC, Olson noted. “We’re not asking what road to go down at this point, but you need to discuss it as a board,” he added.

Board member Dave Davidson said “at first blush” his preference would be to not close New Paths ALC. But he also questioned how a quality, comprehensive discussion will be carried out with so many board members and staff participating remotely. This week’s board meeting, for instance, had several board members and administrators participating via remote video, and the meeting was fraught with technical difficulties involving audio delays, muting, echo, microphone feedback and other glitches. The meeting got underway about 20 minutes late because of those glitches, and at the conclusion of the meeting, board member Patty Dillabough was still not able to be consistently heard.

“There’s an awkwardness to this situation,” Davidson cautioned. “How are we going to get informed (on the ALC) in this scenario? How are we going to get this done?”