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District 833 Spanish immersion expansion topic of Thursday meeting

The topic of expanding the Spanish immersion program is once again on the minds of District 833 leaders.

Earlier this school year, the School Board initiated discussions on how to expand the elementary Spanish immersion program, known as Nuevas Fronteras and housed at Crestview Elementary School in Cottage Grove. Options included moving students out of neighborhood elementary schools so Spanish immersion could have a freestanding building, but discussions fizzled in December after parents expressed frustration with the options.

Now, the topic of Spanish immersion is back on the table, but this time it is about expanding the program to high school.

"We're trying to be planful on the future of the program," District 833 Superintendent Mark Porter said. "It completes a program that we initiated at the elementary level."

Over the next two years, District 833 will be looking at how to best incorporate a partial Spanish immersion program into Woodbury High School.

"It's always been the plan to develop that articulated plan that takes them from Nuevas Fronteras all the way up through graduation from high school," WHS principal Linda Plante said.

A community meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 12 at Woodbury High School to solicit input from families on how Spanish immersion at the high school should look.

Immersed in language

Spanish immersion is a program that serves non-Spanish speaking families. At Nuevas Fronteras, founded in 2004, students are immersed in Spanish as they learn reading, writing, math, science, social studies, art and health.

"This is a unique opportunity to broaden a student's experiences," Porter said.

The oldest class of immersion students is in sixth grade at Cottage Grove Middle School, where they take social studies taught in Spanish and a Spanish language class.

Once the current sixth-graders reach ninth grade, they will move into the high school Spanish immersion program.

Plante said WHS has always been where the high school Spanish immersion would be held.

"I wanted it here," she said. "I am a proponent of that whole immersion experience."

WHS and District 833 are just beginning the process of looking at how to model the high school Spanish immersion program.

Some of the items that need to be considered for the immersion program include: curriculum decisions; which subject areas will be included; who will teach the class; what materials are needed; how many sections will be taught; and what enrollment is feasible.

Additionally, Plante said it would be important to consider how to handle non-immersion students who may what to take an immersion class.

"These are all questions that we need to talk about as a group," she said, "so we can put that all together into a nice seamless program."

Porter said the high school Spanish immersion program would not cost the district any additional money.

"If students are in those classes, they're not in other classes," he said. "So all we have to do is staff accordingly."

Concern expressed

Plante said WHS will be turning to the Spanish immersion parents for input on how they want the program to look and what pieces students need in the program.

"We want to see what our parents would like to see because there's all kinds of different Spanish immersion models out there," she said. "We're going to look at existing models that are out there, take bits and pieces and make the one that we want."

Currently, WHS has no one model that it is leaning toward. The only negative comments Plante said she has heard from the community is that the program will be moving from two Cottage Grove schools across the border to Woodbury.

"Kids do move from one school to another, so there is a logical break after middle school," she said. "But, it's a topic of concern."

District 833 School Board is not expected to make a decision for quite some time, Plante said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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