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Apologetic School Board backs off Spanish Immersion proposals

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Apologetic School Board backs off Spanish Immersion proposals
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

District 833 School Board members apologized for a problematic Spanish Immersion task force process that they created and signaled that they will not vote on controversial expansion proposals later this month.


The process has "clearly not gone the way we expected," board member Laurie Johnson said Thursday.

Following several weeks of contentious public meetings and dialogue among parents in District 833, board members said they want to take a step back and continue work on a long-term plan for the Spanish Immersion program, known as Nuevas Fronteras.

Board Chair Leslee Boyd said she will work with Superintendent Mark Porter to remove the item from a Dec. 16 agenda so the board can "continue this discussion for a better solution."

The board was scheduled to vote on options proposed by a task force to address the popular Spanish Immersion program. One option called for no expansion of the program, which shares space at Crestview Elementary. Another option called for splitting the program between Crestview and Bailey elementary schools. Still another option proposed closing either Crestview, Royal Oaks, Woodbury or Armstrong elementary school to make room for a standalone Spanish Immersion school.

Board members admitted that the task force process used to develop those options generated unintended angst and pitted Spanish Immersion families against other District 833 families.

The district community could not handle the "irreparable damage" that would be caused by displacing students at one of four neighborhood elementary schools to make way for a standalone Spanish Immersion program, board member Jim Gelbmann said.

"The division in this community would last a long time," he said.

Gelbmann, who served on the task force, earlier said he would consider closing Crestview Elementary to support a larger Spanish Immersion program, but said he changed his mind after emotional testimony from parents during a public meeting last month.

Gelbmann, who supports an expanded program, said he wants to see a new task force study the issue or the existing task force to go back to work.

"I apologize to the community for the division this has caused us," he said.

David Kemper, who has a child in the Nuevas Fronteras program, said he opposes all three options and wants the task force to resume work on planning for the program's future.

Ron Kath said he would not vote for any of the three options presented by the 10-member task force. He also suggested a broader task force be assembled.

"I think we need to go back to the drawing board," said fellow board member Marsha Adou.

Check back for more on this story.

Scott Wente
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
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