secondary students in classroom

The Secondary Education Department supervises four comprehensive high schools (grades 9-12), an area learning center (grades 9-12), the School of Environmental Studies (grades 11-12) and six middle schools (grades 6-8).

Enrollment at the district’s four comprehensive high schools ranges from 1,800 to 2,200 students, while enrollment ranges from 800 to 1,200 students at the six middle schools.


Middle and high school students attend school 174 days and teachers work 185 days. The student day is six hours and 50 minutes long. The middle schools have eight 42-minute class periods and the high schools have seven 50-minute class periods.


Middle schools are organized to support interdisciplinary instruction, with “houses” to encourage relationships among students. (A student is part of a house of approximately 150 students rather than an entire school of 1,200 students.) High schools are organized by departments. There is support for gifted and talented students, Advanced Placement (AP), Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), English language learners (ELL) and special education.

Cocurricular Programs

Athletics, music, speech, theater and clubs for students in grades 7-12 emphasize participation and competition. An equal number of opportunities are available to girls and boys. Cocurricular programs employ more than 800 coaches and serve more than 13,500 students (duplicated count) each year.


Each secondary school has a site council consisting of parents and staff. The schools also communicate with parents through newsletters, parent-teacher conferences, school website, the SchoolConnects mass notification service and other publications. Schools offer email updates through e-newsletter services. Parent groups and booster clubs work to support student activities at the middle schools and high schools.

Area Learning Center

The Area Learning Center (ALC) serves students in grades 9-12 who are in need of a second chance, have had difficulty focusing on school and need strong support to fulfill their academic goals. The ALC has a graduation rate of more than 50 percent.
The district also has a Cooperative Area Learning Program (CALP) for middle school students who have been expelled from school. The program provides students with three hours of academics and three hours focused on life skills, service and family goals each school day.

School of Environmental Studies (SES)

SES is an optional high school for juniors and seniors located on the grounds of the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley. The school is a partnership between the district, the zoo and the city. The zoo site, staff and international network of resources provide students with enrichment opportunities that are not available in a traditional high school. SES has an enrollment of approximately 400 students.

Career Development

More than 1,500 high school juniors and seniors are enrolled in 18 career development courses that are offered by the district and more than 400 students participate in the mentor experience program each year.

Some of the career areas represented by courses include animal science, engineering, music and film production, and emergency services. Each career development course has community and business leaders and district staff advising the program. Most of the courses are articulated with post-secondary institutions, giving students college credit for successful completion of the course.

Post-secondary Enrollment Options/Concurrent Enrollment

The Post-secondary Enrollment Options Program (PSEO) was established by the Minnesota legislature to promote rigorous coursework and provide a wider variety of options to students. Qualified high school students may apply to take one or more college-level or technical courses through PSEO. The School Board authorizes the superintendent or designee to facilitate student participation in PSEO in accordance with state law. Other options for college credit include Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses.

Indian Education

The Secondary Education Department oversees the district’s K-12 American Indian Education program, which is funded through federal and state grants. The program is staffed by an Indian education advisor and an academic success coordinator who provide comprehensive services to assist and encourage Indian students to value their heritage, education and a healthy lifestyle, and to stay in school and prepare for a successful future. A Native American Parent Advisory Council works with the program.

Prevention Education

The goal of prevention education is to provide a safe and drug-free environment for students to maximize their educational experiences. The major areas of focus are drug prevention (which includes Youth Teaching Youth and Developmental Psychology) and violence prevention (which includes police liaisons in the middle schools and high schools, Climb Theater, Project ALERT, Life Shells, Second Step, Steps to Respect and anti-bullying classes).


For more information about our Secondary Education department, please contact Secondary Education Director Mark Parr at 651-423-7712.