Starting next school year, School For All Seasons, which had been Cambridge-Isanti’s yearlong option for kindergarten-through-fifth-grade students up until this current school year, will have a new name.
The recommendations from the School For All Seasons’ Reimagine task force were presented during the Cambridge-Isanti School Board meeting on Dec. 16.
This school year, due to enrollment and budget reasons, students in kindergarten through second grade enrolled in School For All Seasons are at Isanti Primary, with students in third through fifth grade at Isanti Intermediate. The other change for School For All Seasons for this school year is that it follows the traditional district calendar.
“School For All Seasons started as a year-round optional program. Last year we moved it back to the traditional calendar,” School For All Seasons Principal Mark Ziebarth said. “It has been an optional program in Cambridge-Isanti for about 22 years.”
Director of Teaching and Learning Brenda Damiani explained the role of the School For All Seasons task force, which met in September, October and November, was to provide feedback and generate ideas regarding the future of School For All Seasons. The task force was composed of parents, School For All Seasons staff and district staff.
Ziebarth explained that beginning next year the School For All Seasons will be changed to Cambridge-Isanti STEAM School accompanied by the tagline: “A K-5 community focused on collaborative problem-solving and interdisciplinary, project-based learning.”
Ziebarth said the next steps include communication to current families, updating the website, registration for kindergarten and grades 1-5, and teacher professional development.
“We will be working with our K-5 staff to work on some of those pieces that we want to really push out, which is engineering, we want to talk about interdisciplinary, collaborative, problem-solving, and really work on those things that our community really saw as strengths of the program,” Ziebarth said.
Board Member Lynn Wedlund was nostalgic about the change from School For All Seasons but also mentioned the district’s financial constraints were a part of the decision.
“But it’s a good compromise; it’s a good way to continue the focus of the program,” Wedlund said.
Ziebarth explained School For All Seasons was housed at the current Isanti Primary School from 1999 to 2006. In 2006, with the building of the Isanti Intermediate School, School For All Seasons was moved to Isanti Intermediate.
Damiani explained last year the district conducted a survey with the School For All Seasons students, families and staff as the district was going through the budget reduction process.
“We wanted to use some guiding principles, and that survey and the input from families really helped us do that,” Damiani said. “And what we found is that families value the small school community, the STEAM focus and project-based and hands-on learning.”
Damiani said class sizes were a big factor in decisions relating to the School For All Seasons this school year.
“One of the reasons that we needed to move our K, 1 and 2 program to Isanti Primary is that we needed to keep those class sizes within our district parameters,” Damiani said. “We said that we’d stay on the district calendar to minimize expenses and that always enrollment would be our primary driver for this program.”
Damiani said some of the parameters the task force used included the district budget, overall district enrollment, enrollment specific to the School For All Seasons, and other options within the district boundaries.
School For All Seasons teacher Kaylee Cooke said the survey helped the task force prioritize what is important for the School For All Seasons, and one characteristic that was evident was the sense of school community.
“I think it really makes the students feel special when I can say hello to a fifth grader and I know their name and I know of them because I’ve spent time with them all year long,” Cooke said. “So that small community, they just really feel like they belong and we do a lot of funny things.”
Cooke said another trait important to School For All Seasons is collaboration.
“From staff, collaborating with each other to do lesson planning: What can we do to mix the grades? Collaboration with our community: Who can we bring in to our school? Where can we go to really get those deep and neat experiences?” Cooke said. “And then collaboration with the students: What can we do to have them work together? How can we work on problem solving, which is a real-life skill in the workplace?”
Cooke said the School For All Seasons will have a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM). The curriculum will include interdisciplinary and project-based learning; collaborative problem-solving; and a strong sense of community.
“We really believe that students do better learning by doing. So we’re constantly doing activities and experiments and letting them be in control of their learning as well as that problem solving piece,” Cooke said. “We’re asking them to use the skills and knowledge that they’ve obtained through kindergarten, first, wherever they are, to solve these problems and to work together and collaborate and communicate.”
Cooke relayed the new point of view statement will be: “School For All Seasons students and families are seeking education that incorporates a strong sense of community, collaboration, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), which includes learning based on interdisciplinary, hands-on, and problem solving experiences.”