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Spanish immersion lottery soon (01/29/2014)
By Amelia Wedemeyer
Madison Elementary School’s Spanish immersion program is starting to come together for the fall of 2014, with approximately 50 students currently vying for the 23 to 24 spots in kindergarten and 25 spots in first grade.

“We had more than enough for a kindergarten lottery and we received at least a minimum, or more than enough, for the minimum to start the program in first grade,” Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) superintendent Scott Hannon said, proudly adding, “We are really pleased.”

Hannon said that he expects the lottery to be held at the end of this week or the beginning of next week, with parents expected to be notified about whether their child has been selected for the program soon after. He explained that WAPS administrators first must sort through the applications and identify each student’s attendance area, as well as determine whether or not the student had applied for both the Madison Spanish immersion program and the Jefferson Elementary STEM program, which also uses a lottery process.

“There are always little nuances,” Hannon said. “We have to put the appropriate people in the lottery.”

Each section of Spanish immersion will reserve six seats for students living in the Madison area. After that, the Madison area students who were not randomly selected will be added to a larger lottery with students not living in the Madison area. From there, it’s a numbers game of chance.

“We reserve six of the seats in kindergarten and six in first grade, for a total of twelve seats, for preference to students in the Madison attendance area,” explained Pat Blaisdell, WAPS director of human resources.

“We also had multiple people apply for both STEM and the language immersion program,” Blaisdell said. “We had them indicate their first and second choices and only save one spot for them. They will be able to be in both lotteries, and given a number for each lottery, but if they are selected for both programs, then they are placed in their first choice [program].”

Search for a first grade Spanish teacher

The next big step in the plan is to hire another bilingual teacher for first grade. Erin Weisenbeck, currently a first grade teacher at Goodview, has already been hired as the kindergarten teacher for the Madison Elementary immersion program. A first grade teacher for the program would fill an already vacant spot currently held by a long-term substitute teacher.

“We had a first grade teacher retire, and we had to fill it temporarily with a long-term substitute,” Blaisdell said. “But now we are recruiting a bilingual teacher who will hopefully be hired by the end of the school year and will not start until next fall.”

The Spanish immersion program will have one section each in kindergarten and first grade. Participating students will learn to read, write, and speak in Spanish, and won't use English for reading and writing lessons until the third grade.  


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