Rebecca Fox-Blair knows just how important the 2019-20 school year is for MG21.

“This year we will celebrate our 10th year, and we will open our new middle campus serving grades 6-8 on Sept. 3,” said the Monona Grove School District charter school executive director and high school teacher.

About 50 high school students and 30 middle school students are enrolled for fall classes.

“Our goal for the first year for the middle school was to have two sections of approximately 30 students, and that’s where we’re at. We’re officially at 28 right now,” MG Superintendent Dan Olson said. “We’ve hired two teachers, and the goal will be next year to add a third section.”

There will also be social work and special education staff, Fox-Blair said.

Expand and remodel

Expanding MG21 to include students in grades 6-8 was made possible through a state grant. Reconstruction work at the Nichols School building was made possible through the $57 million building referendum approved in November 2018.

Remodeling projects at all buildings will be completed mostly in 2020, and a new elementary school will be built to open in the fall of 2021.

“The one area where we are actually having construction this summer is at MG21,” Olson said. “I’m absolutely thrilled with the progress we’re making there.”

The middle school portion of the building will feature three classrooms that can operate independently, or with the help of sliding doors, they can be opened to create one large workspace.

Other rooms for students and a new office with a secure entrance are also being rebuilt. Some mechanical operations are also being updated, and the kitchen will get all new equipment. New flooring is being installed throughout the middle school area, and the old school is getting a new, updated look.

“That makes it a great place for project-based learning,” Olson said.

Members of the Monona Grove School Board toured the site earlier this week.

“It will be completed in time for the opening of school this fall,” Olson said. “We’re really excited about that project.”

Middle school staff

MG21 Middle Campus is a project-based middle school focused on relationships, wellness and academic skills for the whole student, Fox-Blair said.

“The cornerstone projects this year will center around a language arts/social justice project called Story for All in which students capture their own stories, the stories from our community and the story of our school, and a sustainability project which will focus on environmental stewardship and outdoor education,” she said.

MG21 will also continue its commitment to service.

“Both the upper and middle campus will collaborate on projects including our school garden and our school bees, and our work on the Ice Age Trail,” Fox-Blair said.

The two middle campus teachers – Alexandra “Alex” Mentele and Melissa Zastrow – have already been hired for the fall.

Mentele graduated in 2010 from UW-Madison with degrees in Russian language, and civilization and languages and cultures of Asia.

Since then, she has taught elementary and middle grades in Kyrgyzstan and Croatia. She has experience engaging with students through arts and drama, exploration of the natural landscape and surrounding culture, and investigations into what exactly makes the world tick.

Originally from Eau Claire, Mentele’s biggest passions include biking, podcasts, exploring the outdoors with her Krygz mutt, Margot, and playing board games with her English-Scot partner.

Zastrow also graduated from UW-Madison and since then has studied tropical biology in Costa Rica, taught English in coastal Ecuador, worked on an organic mushroom farm and taught at Jefferson Middle School and at a Montessori school.

Fox-Blair said an open house for the middle campus will be held in late fall.

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