Planning is well underway for new grade spans (PreK/K-5; 6-8; 9-12) that will be implemented beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.

Changing grade spans offers new opportunities to meet the developmental and academic needs of 6th graders and 9th graders. It will also help relieve space pressures at the elementary level, particularly related to the expansion of all-day kindergarten for all students.

In order to accommodate 9th graders at the high school level, space will be created at each of the three comprehensive high schools through building additions and remodeling/repurposing of existing space.

In the long term, the new grade configuration will provide benefits to students at all levels (e.g., potential expansion of early learning opportunities; more flexibility with space at elementary schools; new opportunities to meet the social/academic needs of adolescents at middle level; a more coherent high school program with all courses required for graduation under one roof; and alignment with state K-12 academic standards). Moving to the new grade spans will help our schools ensure high levels of achievement for all students.

Planning overview

Learn more about how the work evolved

On May 6, 2014, the school board provided direction on the Project Initiation Plan, which provides a high-level view of the project. Since the plan is a dynamic document, it will be updated as the process progresses. The plan is based on the Cornell Project Management Methodology.

A Grade Configuration Steering Committee is now meeting monthly to advise Superintendent Kate Maguire and Assistant Superintendent (and Project Manager) Kim Riesgraf on the work to implement the new grade spans.

In addition to seeking advice from the steering committee, project leaders will gather perspectives from other stakeholders through focus groups. Project teams will tackle the planning and implementation details in six main areas:

  • High School Programming
  • Middle School Design
  • Facilities
  • Staffing
  • Technology
  • School and Department Transition Planning

Updates as of June 19, 2014

High School Programming

The high school programming project team is in the early stages of considering high school programming that is aligned with Minnesota’s new World’s Best Work Force requirements. The team will be looking at curriculum areas, student services, and specialty programs such as International Baccalaureate, with an eye to how high school programming will look when grades 9-12 are all under one roof.

Middle School Design

The middle school design team has met several times and has made two key recommendations that have been approved by district administration.

Our middle school model will:

  • Use interdisciplinary teams for instruction in math, science, social studies, and language arts (“house” concept) and
  • Incorporate a daily advisory with structured curriculum around college/career planning, social/emotional learning, and academic oversight.


The facilities team has identified tentative locations for building additions and space remodeling/repurposing at each of the three comprehensive high schools. Because the buildings were built at different times over a 50-year period and are used differently, the proposed additions and remodeling/repurposing projects are uniquely designed to meet the specific needs at each school.


The technology project team will identify any changes that may be needed to the technology infrastructure, paying special attention to impact at the high school level due to the increased number of students (addition of 9th grade) in high school buildings. The team will also ensure that technology supports instructional design.

School and Department Transition Planning

Every school and department will pay careful attention to student and staff transitions, particularly for those affected by the move of 6th grade to middle school and 9th grade to high school. Each school and department will develop a school- or department-specific plan for how it will help ensure a smooth transition to the new grade spans.


The staffing project team aims to do as much work as possible early on in the process so that staff will know as soon as possible where they’ll be assigned beginning Fall 2015 and what work, if any, they need to do to update their licensures or endorsements.

The team is identifying challenges and opportunities that may need to be addressed in two key areas:

  1. Transfer process for staff and
  2. Teacher licensing.

Learn more

You can stay informed about planning by watching the reports at each regular school board meeting and checking this website.

June 17 School Board update

May 20 School Board update

After months of study and community feedback, the ISD 279 School Board has approved Supt. Kate Maguire’s recommendation to reconfigure grade spans to preK/K-5, 6-8, 9-12 beginning in 2015-16. The recommendation includes a plan to gain the additional space needed to accommodate 9th graders in high school by building additions and repurposing space at each of the three comprehensive high schools – Maple Grove Senior High, Osseo Senior High, and Park Center Senior High.

Recommendation reflected community feedback

The final recommendation, presented to the School Board on March 18, reflected community and staff feedback received over the past few months. For example, participants in community information sessions expressed a strong preference for adding space at high schools to accommodate incoming 9th graders in order to avoid school boundary changes caused by grade configuration. Along with building additions, some work will need to be done to remodel or repurpose existing space in each high school.

In her presentation to the school board, Supt. Maguire also highlighted how feedback led to a special focus on transitions for students and staff. For example, each of our elementary schools will work to ensure that both 5th and 6th graders have some special events to commemorate their last year in elementary school and that they are prepared for the move to middle school.

How facility work will be financed

The additions, plus the remodeling/repurposing of some existing space, will be accomplished through capital budget planning, using state-authorized funding mechanisms, such as the lease levy, that are designed for such circumstances.

What about boundary changes?

It’s important to note that while changing grade spans will not result in boundary changes at any level, it does not mean that the district will never change school boundaries. Staff constantly monitors student enrollment and housing development. Periodic adjustments to school boundaries will continue to be necessary as populations shift in our communities and schools. 

Planning timeline

Planning will begin immediately so that grade span reconfiguration can be completed by September 2015. Staff already uses a regular annual planning cycle that incorporates many of the activities that will be needed. While a significant level of effort will be required to accomplish grade configuration, much of that work is already under way every year. In her presentation, Supt. Maguire called out aspects of planning that would be new work, extending beyond the regular planning cycle. Examples include planning teacher licensure transition, developing transition teams, designing a middle level program that better serves adolescent needs, and moving furniture and equipment.

In closing her presentation, Supt. Maguire said, “I do not make this recommendation lightly as I am committing our organization to transformational change which will require action. All along, I’ve noted that either course of action – staying with our current grade spans or changing grade spans – has benefits and challenges and that it is our responsibility to fully examine the implications of both choices to determine the best course of action for our students in the long run. Board members, in some regards, this is not the easiest course of action. But it is the course of action that will most benefit District 279 students far into the future.”

Learn more

Read more about how the grade configuration conversation evolved, watch school board discussions on the topic, and view an analysis of benefits and challenges.

Posted March 19, 2014

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