WORTHINGTON — In the monthly instructional committee meeting of the District 518 Board of Education, Worthington High School Principal Josh Noble asked committee members to consider ways to narrow the gap between state ninth-grade math standards and actual placement within the district's high school students.

The Minnesota Department of Education, Noble explained, has established that high school freshmen should be prepared to take geometry after successfully completing Algebra 1 as eighth-graders.

Of WHS's 104 math sections last year, 40 of them were teaching Algebra 1. Each year, about 250 to 280 incoming freshmen move up to WHS, and only 30 to 50 of them are ready for geometry.

"We don't challenge them enough," Noble said.

Ideally, high school students should complete geometry in ninth grade, Algebra 2 in 10th and Algebra 3 in 11th, leaving room for an elective like personal finance or accounting as seniors. However, because 40% of high school math teaching is devoted to teaching an eighth-grade standard, there isn't enough staffing to provide math electives. This means that those 30 to 50 seniors each year who did take geometry as freshmen have to go backward and take something like applied math as seniors, because the district requires four math credits in order to graduate.

The district has been aware of this math gap for a number of years now, Noble said, but has not committed to solving the problem.

"Everybody is waiting for someone else to face it," he said. "We've waited too long to get a consensus."

Noble proposed that for now, the district drop to a three-credit math system so those 30 to 50 on-standard seniors don't have to take a math class that they've already covered. The district should gradually raise the number of students who are prepared for geometry as ninth-graders, and eventually return to a four-credit system that offers math electives to seniors, he said.

The full school board will consider Noble's proposal next week.

Project updates

In the school board's operations committee meeting, Superintendent John Landgaard and Director of Business Management Dave Skog updated members on the status of various district construction projects.

Trojan Field is set to be completed, with the exception of the field house building, by the end of August, and will be usable in time for the coming school year.

Framing is nearing completion on the second-floor addition to WHS, with a new roof slated for installation next week.

The middle school track is almost finished., with the last step installation of the scoreboard. Bus loop and playground improvements at Prairie Elementary are set to be completed by the end of this week.

A storage building to be shared between the Area Learning Center and the planned intermediate school is still in the planning stages.

Fall planning

District staff is hard at work considering options for the 2020-2021 school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many factors will go into formulating a finalized plan, and the district is waiting for MDE to release guidelines the week of July 27.

"It's going to be a real challenge," Landgaard said. "There's a lot to balance."