School District of Rhinelander’s Community Ed program finding its niche
Learning after hours
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
School-age children aren’t the only students heading back to class this fall. Adults are taking advantage of empty classrooms in the evenings and learning about healthy eating and saving for retirement, taking a Zumba class or teaching their dogs new tricks, among many others. This month marks the start of the sixth year of Community Education classes, sponsored by the School District of Rhinelander.
According to Community Education coordinator Mike Cheslock, the program came into existence to address concerns that there was a lack of connection between the community and the school district. The goal was twofold; to increase communication and to give community members a reason to use the school buildings.
Hiring a Community Education coordinator who publishes a weekly e-newsletter, sends out press releases, works with the media and is generally accessible helped with communication concerns, Cheslock said. Bringing taxpayers to the schools they help fund is where the community classes come in.
“After the school day, we have these very nice buildings just sitting here,” continued Cheslock. “So why not offer opportunities for people with different interests to come in and use the buildings, the classrooms, the gymnasium, common spaces.”
With five years of programming under its belt, many of the bugs have been worked out. Participation is consistent and according to Cheslock, he rarely cancels classes due to lack of enrollment. Proof, he says, they are offering what is interesting to people.
“People who come into my office and want to teach a class are very passionate about what they want to do,” he continued. “And it’s usually because they’ve heard other people are interested, too.”
Because the school district collaborates with area businesses, and works with local experts – like Zumba instructor Val Foley or garden and floral classes led by the Forth Floral staff—classes are offered at an affordable price.
“It’s nice to have collaboration with businesses in the area,” Cheslock said. “They can offer classes in our building or at their business. We do all the promotion and registration and all they need to do is teach the class.
“It’s just people in the community sharing their knowledge and passion with other people in the community.”
Registration is open for the fall and early winter classes. Sign up online at the district’s website, www.Rhinelander.k12.wi.us/community, or print a paper form and mail it in with payment, or drop it off at the Community Education coordinator’s office. Cheslock can be reached at 715-365-9745.