Educational choices doesn't mean alternative instruction

Having options when it comes to a child's education is one of the perks of living in not only the Langdon area but Cavalier County. Not only are there two excellent public education options with the Langdon Area School District and Munich School District but also a private option with St. Alphonsus Catholic School.

“At St. Alphonsus we form a strong educational family. The students, teachers, families and administrators work very closely together to have a great educational experience. We like to challenge and help our students reach their fullest potential,” St. Alphonsus School Administrator Carrie Hope said.

St. Alphonsus Catholic School has been a part of the Langdon community for nearly 100 years. The school has and will continue to focus on providing a faith-based education to its students. Hope explained, "By offering a strong faith-base platform for not only a child’s education but for their faith, the school helps guide the student to be closer to God through our daily morning prayers, weekly mass, visits with the priest and faith-based curriculum. We are not only learning together, but we pray together."

The school is not an alternative school by any means as it is fully accredited by the state of North Dakota just like the public school system. It does offer is smaller student to teacher ratios which allows teachers to make individual education plans for each of their students. By having this opportunity, Hope believes the students at St. Alphonsus can learn at their level with close help from the teachers to reach their needs.

“There is always the talk of small class sizes in a private school. This is not a negative thing. When we are able to have smaller classes, our teachers are able to work closer with the students. The students become more of individuals than just a class,” Hope shared.

St. Alphonsus students have a yearly tuition of $1,000 per student. As a private school, there is no state funding allocated, so tuition is used to help keep the school functioning. The cost may be a deterrent for some, but there is a tuition assistance grant that can be applied for in the spring of each year to help with the cost. Transportation to the school is also the familys responsibility though there are bussing services available.'The only other cost to families is for hot lunch like any school has.

“We do ask families to help us with fundraisers to, again, help with the school's needs. Our students get the chance to experience lots of hands-on, life experiences as we can travel around with field trips and events,” Hope shared.

St. Alphonsus offers classes starting in preschool all the way through 8th grade.  While the class sizes vary from three students to 16 students, what does not vary is that each classroom has a fully licensed teacher. All classrooms are equipped with smartboards along with other technology to give students a 21st Century education. This also involves continual updates to the teaching materials. “Our curriculum is on a seven-year rotation with math and social studies just being updated. We will be implementing a new language arts curriculum for the 2020 school year. St. Alphonsus students enjoy having a full-size school library and computer lab, and the school prides itself on being up-to-date on all technology. The older students in grade 4th-8th have one-to-one iPad use. While utilizing the tools of today to teach the skills of the future, there are still some “old-school” skills being taught. Hope shared that the school still firmly believes in teaching cursive starting in third grade. Recoginizing one of the biggest complaints in the “real world” is the lack of communication skill, so St. Alphonsus faculty work hard to teach strong writing and study skills. Another area that is prided on by the school is the music department. The program continues to stay strong as the school offers music class starting in preschool.

“Our students then get the chance to join band and choir starting in fifth grade,” Hope said.

All classrooms teach the core subjects such as math, language arts, science, and social studies. The students also have P.E., computer class, guidance, and library every week for the state-mandated minutes. Hope explained that the teachers of St. Alphonsus get the privilege of not only teaching every core subject but also religion. The students get plenty of breaks as well with the kindergarten through 4th grade getting four recesses a day and the 5th-8th grade getting two recesses a day.

“We put our students well-being, education, and safety first. We also like to promote family time and family involvement. We work closely with the parents to make sure that their children are having the best educational experience possible,” Hope shared.

St. Alphonsus wants to have the parents involved in their child's education and continually adds more family-centered activities for those enrolled.  One of the activities that happens at least twice a year is STAR reading time (Sit Together and Read). Parental involvement is not limited to the twice yearly parent teacher conferences as parents are welcome to visit with teachers and Hope whenever needed. St. Alphonsus also has an open house before school starts, school plays, concerts, and more to get parents involved in our school.

The private school is also very proud to offer a preschool and pre-k program. The preschool has the three-year-old group attending class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The goal with the preschool program is to help children start to make the transition into a school setting. The students have fun while also being taught the social aspect of school. The focus is to try to help the children start learning a routine and how a school setting works.

“We do dive into learning our letters, numbers, shapes and so on. Our preschool program allows the students to attend music class and library,” Hope shared.

The pre-k program is filled with the four and five-year-old group. The pre-k curriculum is focused a lot more on getting ready for kindergarten - from working on manners, learning prewriting skills to numbers, shapes, colors, and so much more. The group also enjoys doing a lot of science experiments, music, library, and the children start guidance time. The decision to offer these programs was a result of how very strongly the school feels about starting children early on their learning development. The primary goal is to give the children a chance to be children but to start learning at a young age while having fun.

“Both programs work very closely together so that students and parents feel comfortable with their child going to full-time school days. Our preschool and pre-k students get to attend field trips and participate in Christmas and spring music concerts. In our programs we talk about real world experiences, community helpers, religion, and friendships,” Hope said.

St. Alphonsus also offers an After-School Program. The After-School Program is for all students that attend St. Alphonsus and Langdon Elementary School. The program follows the school calendar, occurring each school night from 3:15-5:30 unless otherwise noted. The students that attend the program can get assistance on homework, do crafts, play outside and in the gym, and have a snack. There is a need for older childcare in the community of Langdon and was a driving force behind the creation of the program, one that the school is more than happy to offer for the families of Langdon.

“The dedication our staff, families and community have for our school is indescribable. We are more then just co-workers, we are a team,” says Hope.

St. Alphonsus is a hidden treasure in the small town of Langdon and is open to all in Cavalier County and beyond. The teachers that work hard for their students - always  updating curriculum and finding new and fun ideas for field trips - are all hallmarks of St. Alphonsus. At a time when having choices can be overwhelming, St. Alphonsus is a choice school and a great one at that.

“The teachers and staff work together to make sure your students are learning at their level and also have worked to make programs that challenge students so they can be pushed to the next level,” Hope said.

The goal of St. Alphonsus is to have students prepared for the real world around them and be successful in their future as they leave the small school and move into high school. St. Alphonsus mixes faith, education standards, and fun all together to give the students that attend a strong educational experience that will stay with them forever.

Contact Carrie Hope at the school 256-2354 to set up a school visit. Enrollment for the 2020-2021 preschool and pre-k programs opens on January 6. Hope is always happy to give tours and sit to visit about the school and student/families needs. Teachers are also happy to meet with families.

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