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Spanish immersion plan taking shape

The first class of Spanish immersion students, who entered kindergarten in 2004, will start a high school in the fall of 2013 at Woodbury High School.

The four-year program at WHS will complete the "K-12 immersion pathway," WHS Principal Linda Plante told immersion parents who attended an information meeting last week at Crestview Elementary School, home to the Nuevas Fronteras K-5 immersion program.

Parents will receive a letter, Plante said, stating that current middle school immersion students will be assumed to be moving on to WHS unless parents "opt out."

"I'd like to see them stay," Plante said.

As WHS students, the same two-class program per trimester in Spanish will continue with language and culture in each grade. Ninth-graders will also study human geography, world history in 11th grade, American history as juniors and be in a capstone program as seniors, all in Spanish.

In capstone, students do research throughout the year on topics they choose, in collaboration with teachers, to fully explore and interpret data in real life situations as preparation for learning in college.

Four years of math will be offered but only three are required. Colleges, however, such as the University of Minnesota, will soon require four years to enter college.

Teachers of regular Spanish classes are not fluent enough to teach immersion classes, Plante said.

Immersion teachers at WHS have lived and taught in a Spanish-speaking country, she said. Several of them married Spanish speakers and speak Spanish at home.

Immersion students coming to WHS will be encouraged to take advanced placement and College in the Schools Spanish language tests to test out of those classes and receive credits. Plante said immersion students will have no problem passing them.

Students will have many education opportunities, she said, including a six-week summer stay in Spain with the Woodbury immersion teachers. They can also take another language. They can participate in August Academy to complete health and physical education requirements.

Plante said the school wants to expand immersion classes to include electives.

No busing to Woodbury will be offered just as it's not available to students who opt to transfer to a school outside their assigned attendance boundary.

However, Plante added: "We're working on it."

There's also a proposal that middle school immersion students who are eligible to compete in high school varsity athletic programs would do so only at Woodbury where they will play when they enter ninth-grade. The proposal, if parents ask for it, needs School Board approval.

The Spanish immersion program is for children whose parents want them to be bilingual. All classes, except art, music and physical education are taught in Spanish only.

After the Nuevas Fronteras program, they can go on to Cottage Grove Middle School where they have two classes each trimester with language arts and social studies taught in Spanish.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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