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Preliminary curriculum for proposed regional school expands learning and career opportunities for Valley students

FORT KENT, Maine — Administrators of a proposed regional school in the St. John Valley have begun developing a curriculum for high school students that would expand learning opportunities for the students should the new school become a reality. 

The potential curriculum, which Valley Unified coordinator of innovative practice and community outreach Peter Caron stressed is only in the beginning stages, suggests learning pathways designed to help students meet career objectives, and prepare them for post-secondary educational studies within their fields of interest.

For example students undergoing the health science pathway would take courses spread out through their high school years beginning with freshman year with introductory courses in health care preparation, along with their core high school classes.

During year two, students would take a course in medical terminology, and during their junior and senior years engage in coursework that would allow for anatomy and physiology, health occupations and nursing courses, and integrated career preparation. 

The pathways are laid out much like a college academic career track. 

In addition, recommendations are made for career-related activities and learning experiences such as athletics, Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), Skills USA, and a Skills For Success Internship Prep Training Series. 

Valley Unified Educational Service Center officials — who come from the school administrative units of SAD 27, SAD 33 and Madawaska School Department involved in the regional school project — began designing the potential curriculum following a two-part blended learning interest survey they conducted in the fall of 2018. 

The survey sought information from students in grades nine-12 at Fort Kent Community High School, Madawaska High School and Wisdom High School — the three high schools that will combine to form the regional school should it come to fruition.

In July, the Valley Unified Education Service Center Board of Directors voted unanimously to include grades seven and eight at the proposed regional school, but these curriculum suggestions are geared only to those students in grades nine-12. 

“In September and October, 2018, we conducted the preliminary blended learning interest survey with ninth-12th-graders in the three high schools in the Valley Unified Education Service Center concerning over 30 potential blended learning opportunities,” Caron said. “Upon reviewing the results of that first survey, we identified 16 high-interest, semester-long career education or special interest learning opportunities and conducted a follow-up survey with the ninth-12th graders in each high school in December 2018 to determine which blended learning opportunities to begin providing.”

Of 280 responses to the initial survey, 55.4 percent were from Fort Kent Community High School students, 22.5 percent from Wisdom High School and 22.1 percent from Madawaska High School.

The followup survey garnered 268 responses from the students, this time with 48.5 percent being from Madawaska High School, 41.8 percent from Fort Kent Community High School and 9.7 percent from Wisdom High School. This time the survey asked the students to identify career/special interest topics they would choose to participate in if  available. 

The four most popular subjects according to the students were, in order: introduction to criminology, audio/video production, culinary arts and business information management, which tied with career exploration. 

Multi-disciplinary career pathways suggested in the curriculum will potentially include fundamental core classes along with special academies for business and financial studies, health and public service studies, industry and infrastructure studies, and communication and technology studies. 

The pathways include career and post-secondary readiness learning opportunities in specific clusters within the groupings including job shadowing opportunities.

“The school’s program of studies will align academic coursework, student activities, work and career-ready training activities and technology in an integrated manner to establish clear connections for students between what they are learning and their occupational interests,” according to a post on the Valley Unified website. 

An example pathway curriculum regarding health science studies would potentially allow for students to graduate from high school with a certificate in licensed practical nursing with an educational background to prepare them for post-secondary studies in any field related to health care. 

Caron said that logistical questions regarding funding of the potential curriculum and specifics as to how to implement it “will only be worked out by involving multiple constituencies in the development of both a school concept design and a corresponding [and more specific] educational vision. That process will only begin once site selection is completed.”

The site selection process is underway. In October, the Valley Unified Site Selection Committee recommended a site in Frenchville as a potential location for the proposed school. Since then, SAD 27 school board members expressed concerns about the site selection process and may consult an attorney to help them get it reviewed. 

The Valley Unified board is scheduled to vote on Tuesday, Dec. 10, whether to recommend the Frenchville site to the Maine Department of Education, which must approve the choice. The Department of Education has agreed to fund building the school up to $100 million.

“The proposed school represents an opportunity for educators from our three current middle/high schools and the St. John Valley Technology Center [as well as faculty from both University of Maine at Fort Kent and Northern Maine Community College] to form one team with shared responsibility for facilitating a broader range of interconnected learning opportunities, work/career training activities, technology skills and student activities — all under one roof on a single campus,” Caron said.

For information about the Valley Unified Educational Service Center call Peter Caron at (207) 834-3166, visit valleyunified@blogspot.com or check out the Valley Unified Educational Service Center Facebook page.

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