Otsego-based Kaleidoscope Charter School (KCS) is expanding to offer high school curriculum in 2014-2015, a move that will grow the school to more than 500 students next year, and add a junior and class over the next two years.
The school, which opened in the Rogers are with mobile units in 2004 and opened the current school just off of Wright County Highway 19 in 2008, is set to offer a program centered around “STEAM” – or science, technology, engineering, arts and math – according to principal Paula Higgins.
“It’s a progression we needed to make, and the STEM program, along with the arts piece, allows us to continue to focus on project-based learning,” Higgins said. “We think it meshes well with what we’ve done, and how we want to move ahead.”
Bonds on the expansion will be issued soon, and Kaleidoscope will add a new media center, cafeteria, kitchen and classroom space to its existing building, as well as conduct several remodels to its current space. The school will break ground on the expansion in October of this year, with work to be done throughout the year and into 2015.
But the change will happen all at once, Higgins said. Students in the freshman and sophomore classes, added this year, will grow the school by about 40 students. Most are current Kaleidoscope enrollees that will get to remain with the school through their senior year.
“I think, with what we heard from our parents, is that they wanted to stick with the multi-standard, multi-disciplinary style of learning through 12th grade,” Higgins said. “We have smaller class sizes, but we teach to the same state standards than any school does, with more of a hands-on approach. Our parents and our board are very supportive of that.”
St. Michael-Albertville Superintendent Dr. James Behle has now seen two neighboring schools – Kaleidoscope and St. Michael Catholic School, both add students through expansion in his current tenure as leader of District 882. But he’s maintained the attitude that there are more than enough families and students to go around.
“I think it’s excellent that parents in our community have a choice,” he said in 2012, when the St. Michael Catholic School expanded to a middle level. “We’re fortunate to be in that position.”
Kaleidoscope is a true charter school, and not part of either the STMA or the Elk River School District. It does benefit from state funding, via statutes that have set out charter school funding statewide. It also uses funding to transport student, relying on Vision Transportation in Elk River.
“We budget very carefully, each year, based on what we have in enrollment. All of our curriculum meets state standards. Our board is very careful to make sure things work,” Higgins said.
As is the state law, the building isn’t owned by KCS, but by a separate business. Lease aid from the state helps cover the rent, Higgins said.
As for the high school curriculum, much of it will be an extension of the current middle levels at Kaleidoscope. A tradition of service learning – where students are required to give 20 hours back to the community each year, will continue. Electives, such as biological sciences and even Post Secondary Educational Opportunity (PSEO) or college in the schools will also be on tap.
Staff won’t grow by much for 2014-2015, but KCS will continue to add teachers as the population grows.
“We’ve got a great mix of new teachers and people who bring a lot of educational experience to the table,” Higgins said.
A celebration of the expansion will take place some time this fall, during the school year, Higgins said. For more on KCS and its programs, check out KCSMN.org.