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District 518's VIBE program terminated for licensure issues, failing to meet Minnesota standards

Eighteen teachers with the VIBE program, who do not work in District 518 buildings, will need to be put on leave or terminated.

West Learning Center on Turner Street in Worthington, on July 6, 2022.
West Learning Center on Turner Street in Worthington, on July 6, 2022.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — The Minnesota Department of Education has terminated District 518’s online VIBE program, which had been under review for the past two years following a 2018 parent complaint.

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Eighteen teachers with the VIBE program, who do not work in District 518 buildings, will need to be put on leave or terminated. Two have been offered positions with the school but have not accepted, said Superintendent John Landgaard Monday at a meeting of the District 518 Board of Education’s Instructional Committee.

VIBE, or Virtual Instruction by Excellence, is a public school program for home-bound and home-schooled students that allows them to learn online. About 400 students from around the state were enrolled in the program last year, and 700 were expected for the 2022-23 school year.

“They’ll either move to a different program, they’ll home-school, or they’ll go back to in-person (learning),” Landgaard said.

One of the two reasons the MDE cited for the termination was licensure issues, which Landgaard believed was likely due to a data entry error, as everyone in the program was licensed appropriately.

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MDE also stated it did not agree with the curriculum’s usage of multiple options for parents, believing it did not fully meet Minnesota standards.

“They go by a report they get and they don’t look at anything else,” Landgaard said. “We had communications last fall, January, and they showed up for a site visit on May 26, and we got this email on July 28.”

There were no phone calls or emails stating the MDE had concerns and there were no requests for more information, which Landgaard called “very frustrating.”

School board member Adam Blume asked if the data could be resubmitted, and Landgaard said that was up to the school board.

“How long is it going to take to build it back up, because I don’t want to lose these kids or lose these teachers?” Blume asked.

Landgaard said that when they get a program up and running again, it would most likely have 200 to 300 students back in it fairly quickly.

“I think we need to resubmit,” said Brad Shaffer, school board member.

Provided the full school board approves, District 518 will attempt to establish a new online learning program that would start in the 2023-2024 school year.

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The loss of VIBE will also affect the school’s finances, as VIBE had brought around $3.2 million of revenue into the budget. While declining enrollment aid to the tune of $625,000 will offset some of that money, the revenue will be down about $2.5 million, said District Accounting Supervisor, Pat Morphew at a meeting of the district’s Operations Committee on Tuesday.

However, the VIBE program’s expenses of approximately $2.2 million will also be eliminated.

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The net effect is probably a loss of approximately $400,000, Morphew said.

A budget amendment will be introduced for the full school board to vote on, likely in September or October.

New rules for technology and student privacy

The committee also learned about a new Minnesota law requiring a student data policy requiring schools to vet all programs and applications the school district uses as well as notifying parents of investigations. Landgaard said the new requirement will prevent teachers from using programs that show them all students’ screens at once, making it harder to help students stay focused on education and monitor their technology use in the classroom.

Landgaard said some parents felt that schools were treading on their children’s rights and that some schools had allowed companies to sell their data, too, prompting the new state law.

“So we know who to talk to,” Shaffer said, expressing frustration with state legislators. “Dumbasses. This is ridiculous. This is stupid.”

Blume expressed frustration with the parents involved as well, and pointed out that the technology concerned is owned by District 518.

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“It’s not going to be a fun implementation (process) and actually this went into effect July 1, so… everything’s supposed to be ready,” Landgaard said. “And obviously that’s not going to happen.”

In other news Monday, the committee:

  • Received an enrollment update. Prairie Elementary will have a little more than 700 students, the Intermediate School a little less than 700, Worthington Middle School about 700 students and Worthington High School between 1,000 and 1,100 students. The Learning Center is currently set for a class of fewer than 100 students but those numbers are likely to increase by the end of the first quarter.
  • Checked on the status of the District 518’s plan to have all-day preschool for 4-year-olds. The goal remains to have that program ready for the 2022-23 school year.
  • Asked about how the students are doing academically and socially and whether they are still lagging following the stresses and disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. They learned that the school will be assessing that when school begins and providing interventions based on that data.
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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