by SARAH SQUIRES
Winona Area Public Schools will likely eliminate art classes for fifth graders for the next school year, after the board was briefed on difficulties fitting reading and math intervention into the current schedule.
The middle school operates on a six-period day, including four core courses and two periods of elective studies, with the exception of eighth graders, who are instructed with an eight-period schedule. Fifth graders currently have an intervention/home room every other day, along with art or industrial tech every other day. Winona Middle School (WMS) Principal Mark Winter explained that a group of teachers met for six weeks to discuss ways to improve upon the schedule, and concluded that fifth graders need that intervention every day. State standards, he said, require that an elective art class be offered once between third and fifth grade and again between sixth and eighth grade, so eliminating fifth grade art would not impact the district's adherence to state requirements for arts education.
Board member Allison Quam said that some students do really well in arts or industrial technology, so to miss out on those areas for an entire year, "I find that very concerning," she said.
Board member Jeanne Nelson said the industrial technology cut didn't concern her as much as the elimination of art for fifth graders, but added that there would still be some art opportunities in other subject areas even without a dedicated class. For fifth graders, "It's important that there's that support for reading and math here in their first year at that school," she said. "It's a trade off, no matter how you see it." Commenting on art electives offered in later grades, Nelson noted that it was important to highlight all the enriching electives offered at the district. "We have school districts around here who offer no art classes at all through eighth grade," she said.
Other elective offerings at the middle school open up in higher grades, when students have the opportunity to take art, language, or industrial tech courses. But, due to difficulty in finding licensed family and consumer sciences (FACS) teachers, the middle school will not offer those courses next year.
Some additional elective courses proposed for later grades at WMS next year include 2-D art design, clayworks 3D design, creative woodworking, and musical theater.
The board was also briefed on new course proposals at Winona Senior High School for next year, including a health care core curriculum course, which would help introduce students to potential health care careers; electricity and basic electronics, which is part of the REACH program that prepares students for the workforce; introduction to education (St. Mary's PACC course), which would give students the opportunity to earn a college credit, and potentially encourage under represented populations to consider the teaching profession; introduction to precision machining (REACH); introduction to vegetable gardening; peer tutoring; and precision machining processes CNC, where students could be paid to make machine shop products through REACH partnerships.
The board is expected to vote on course proposals at its next regular meeting.