Pillager Area Charter School, PACS, for all intents and purposes is an old fashion grade 9-12 rural school. We are located in the country about a half mile outside the city limits of Pillager, MN, in a town with a population of 420. There are a few shops, restaurants, and a traditional public school.
Pillager Area Charter School is a different “alternative” for students from the surrounding area as we are a daytime, experiential, expeditionary school and offer vocational and physical education (PE) on campus. Other area alternative schools, are schools within schools, that typically focus on credit recovery, independent study, after school or seat based computer programs. Our focus on experiential learning and adventure curriculum is different from other alternatives.
We have a democratic approach to student input, holding community circle every week. Students, parents, and staff also have the right to call for a community circle or “concerned party” circle when needs arise that can’t wait for the weekly meeting.
Population of Students:
PACS student population historically is made up of 70%-80% free and reduced lunches, 30%-40% Special Education students (SPED) and very much a homogeneous group generally only serving 5% non-white students. Student numbers have stayed steady over the past 10 years, around 40 – 42 students.
PACS students come from the surrounding Lakes Area. They arrive from Staples (15 miles west), Pine River (30 miles north), Crosby/Brainerd area (30 miles east), Little Falls (30 miles south) and all the areas in between.
PACS is founded on the belief that self-regulation, responsibility to others, and accountability are best learned through experience. Therefore, our school features a curriculum built around experiential learning and active citizenship. The curriculum supports personalized learning plans, student-initiated projects, General Ed classes, public student presentations, and partnerships with parents and community. Students also participate annually in service projects throughout the Central Lakes Area. PACS emphasizes learning outside the school through off-campus experiences and service to local communities.
Since enrollment is low, PACS has a small teaching staff. As a result, all teachers spend part of each day teaching or advising outside their areas. Teachers maintain licenses in the following areas: science, life sciences, history, special education, communication arts, language arts, mathematics, physical education, and coaching. Teachers indicate that their work is both challenging and satisfying, and there has been very little staff turnover since the school opened in 2001.