Pine River-Backus School Board learns Alternative Learning Program details

District's Alternative Learning Program is ahead of various state priorities

Echo Journal file photo

PINE RIVER — Sue Peet, director of the Pine River-Backus School District’s Alternative Learning Program (formerly the Alternative Learning Center), updated the school board on the program Monday, April 3.

Peet said the program has seen some changes since the Pequot Lakes School District ended its contract with PR-B. The program received approval to resume independent studies.

The ALP has 12 open enrolled students currently — six from Pequot Lakes, two from Pillager and one each from Brainerd, Park Rapids, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Crosby-Ironton.

The district also re-enrolled students who left to attend other schools, including five from Crosslake's online school.

Students in the independent program have a wide variety of experiences

"I feel like we're picking up students and filling in a need we have here," Peet said.


Peet said 35% of the students in the ALP are enrolled with mental health programs such as at Northern Pines in Brainerd, and 31 (about half the ALP students) are enrolled in work experience programs.

The ALP is starting to look into more project-based learning opportunities for students.

Board Chair Chris Cunningham asked how the program is doing as far as graduates. Peet said there are still two or three students who will likely not finish this school year, but the program often continues working to graduate students beyond traditional ages.

"You have the support of the board so whatever you need, let us know," Cunningham said.

Superintendent Jonathan Clark commended the ALP for being ahead of developing state guidelines for initiatives like work readiness, mental health support and more.

"One of the things PR-B should be proud of is our ALP (formerly ALC) program," Clark said. "If you watch any news briefing, if you see anything from MSBA, MREA, the state Legislature about the money and need for mental health services, job based learning, education and stuff, that's what our ALP is."

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Briefly heard of a discussion about the possibility of relocating Head Start students from the Backus Head Start building to Pine River, and closing the building in Backus.
  • Received a report from Food Service Director Jill Blanchard saying food service has had a difficult year due to small staff. They have managed in spite of difficulties.
  • Heard about facility improvement goals for the next year, including replacement of a maintenance and plow truck, replacement of volleyball standards (mobile upright supports), installation of carpet at the district office entrance to prevent slips and more.
  • Approved creating another speech language pathologist position and approved hiring Mariah Kardell as a speech language pathologist.
  • Approved an Equal Access to School Facilities policy, which provides language allowing for the use of school space by student groups who wish to conduct meetings for religious, political or philosophical purposes during noninstructional time. The meetings must be student led and voluntary.
  • Approved a Disposition of Obsolete Equipment and Materials policy, which grants the superintendent permission to approve disposal of obsolete equipment through sale at a reasonable price.
  • Approved a Waste Reduction and Recycling policy, which establishes standards for reclaiming materials and recycling to reduce waste and reclaim value for the school.
  • Approved a School Forest policy, which declares the school forest as a place set aside for purposes of furthering the study of all phases of environmental education.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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