Language immersion, preschool approved


by Amelia Wedemeyer

At the Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board meeting on Thursday, the board voted to approve both the Spanish language immersion program at Madison Elementary School as well as a collaborative preschool expansion project with Winona State University (WSU).

“I want to congratulate Dr. Hannon and whoever worked with him to come up with this,” board member Ben Baratto said of the new Spanish language immersion program. “I think a lot of work went into it and I am very happy we are doing it next year.”

The Spanish language immersion program is set to begin in September 2014 at Madison Elementary, with a section in kindergarten and another in first grade. The plan is to teach and engage with students in Spanish for at least 50 percent of their overall learning time. Along with the immersion program at Madison, Winona Middle School will include a Spanish 1 elective class in seventh grade and a German 1 elective class in eighth grade.

All but one board member voted for the Spanish program proposal, with Steve Schild expressing his hesitation for immediate action.

“I am going to vote against it, but I hope that I am wrong,” Schild said. “I am not convinced there was a wide enough range of options being investigated here.” Because the immersion program will be placed in just one elementary school building, Schild has argued in the past, the foreign language expansion will not reach enough students and administrators should have more fully explored other potential language programs.

The next step in the process of implementation will be to create an enrollment and application procedure, which will be similar to the lottery used to select students for the STEM program at Jefferson Elementary School.

WAPS/WSU preschool program

The preschool expansion at Washington-Kosciusko (W-K) Elementary School will go forward in the fall of 2014 after a unanimous vote by the School Board.

Currently, the plan is for a full-day childcare program and preschool run by the WSU Children’s Center. The program will serve approximately 40 children between the ages of 22 months and five years, with a priority given to children who meet established “at-risk” criteria.

“Will the formatted agreement be any more specific about the target percentage [of] children ‘at-risk’?” Schild asked during the discussion prior to voting.

June Reineke, of the WSU Children’s Center, explained that WSU could include within the W-K lease agreement a specific percentage target for the number of “at-risk” children involved, as well as the guidelines and the established criteria used to determine whether a child would qualify as “at-risk." “We can put in the contract a specific percentage or certain procedure; I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Reineke said.

WSU will provide the renovation costs of approximately $125,000, with WAPS expected to waive the first few years of rent for the building space in exchange.

“I am convinced two or three years would be the extent of the no charge,” Hannon explained to the board. “It’s certainly negotiable, but I would advise that the max would be five years.”


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