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Open enrollment drives Alburnett school growth
Bond passed by voters in 2020 helps with construction
ALBURNETT — Alburnett school senior Brendan Brown was cutting raw chicken breast in to cubes Thursday for chicken noodle soup he is practicing to make to serve to teachers during parent-teacher conferences later this month.
Brown, 17, is one of 18 students in the ProStart culinary class at Alburnett, the kitchen for which was has been newly updated — along with many other aspects of the K-12 school as a part of more than $15 million worth of construction projects.
ProStart is a career and technical education program, through the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, to teach high school students culinary skills and restaurant management principles, and skills such as communication, teamwork, professionalism and time management.
The class is “fun and relaxed,” Brown said. His favorite thing he’s cooked in class is loaded fries. They started with whole potatoes, which are cut in to strips, deep fried and topped with mac and cheese and bacon, he said.
“If we make the dish right, I enjoy eating it,” Brown said.
The culinary class is a lot of trial and error. One of the strangest things that senior Ellie Cooper, 18, has tried to make in class is green tomato jalapeno strawberry jam. It wasn’t good, she said.
The K-12 school district has grown by 100 students this school year — much of which is attributed to open enrollment — bringing the student body up to about 820 students.
About one-third of the student body is students who open enroll into the district, Superintendent Dani Trimble said. There are 316 students open enrolled into the district right now, the largest number from the nearby Linn-Mar Community School District:
- 120 students from Linn-Mar;
- 115 students from Cedar Rapids;
- And 36 from Central City.
Other school districts students are coming from are Center Point Urbana, Marion Independent, Springville and College Community.
Construction projects funded by a $11.5 million bond referendum passed by voters in March 2020 created room for the influx of growth. Voters also approved a measure allowing the property tax levy rate to exceed $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed taxable value, but not to exceed $4.05.
The school board also authorized use of the district’s portion of an existing 1-cent sales tax for schools to add up to $3.4 million to the bond sales.
“We still have significant room for growth,” Trimble said. “We have a long ways to go before we’re concerned about filling our spaces.”
Along with the culinary classroom being completed, the industrial technology, business and agriculture programs all have remodeled classrooms.
Other construction projects soon to be completed are a multipurpose building with a full-size gym. The current gym in the original Alburnett school building is being remodeled to add eight more classrooms.
An auditorium and new music rooms will be completed this spring.
“It’s an absolute transformation for us this year,” Trimble said.
Alburnett culinary teacher LaRae Arment said that before construction, the culinary classroom was one-fourth the size of the new classroom. Now the space has professional equipment and allows for double the number of groups to work at a time — eight — for a more hands-on experience.
Some students want to go in to culinary industry someday. Others just “love to be in the kitchen,” Arment said.
The facility matches the “amazing things” Arment is already doing in the culinary program, Superintendent Trimble said.
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