Prior Lake-Savage will study K-5 programs

  • Article by: SARAH LEMAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2011 - 11:44 PM

A committee formed by the school board will focus on STEM and world language options.

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Prior Lake-Savage leaders say that a STEM program could make sense for the school district, since environmental learning is already a focus in local schools. Above, kids painted paw prints on socks that they could put on their hands during a summer camp at the McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center in Savage.

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

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Language immersion classes and beefed-up offerings in engineering and technology could be on the horizon for students at Prior Lake-Savage elementary schools, depending on the advice of a newly formed study group.

A committee formed by the school board this month will research world language and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs with an eye to expanding options for the district's K-5 students.

The group, made up of parents, employees and school board members, plans to make recommendations this fall. Its ideas, if adopted by the board, could be rolled out as soon as the fall of 2012.

The district doesn't currently teach a world language to elementary students, but interest in doing so has been bubbling for years, said Jeff Holmberg, the district's curriculum director. The group's examination of STEM options comes as the district gets ready to roll out updated state science standards that include a new emphasis on engineering and technology, he said.

In part, school leaders are motivated by a desire to retain and attract students who might otherwise be lured to special programs in neighboring districts.

"We know that we have students that are opting to go to other school districts to participate in other immersion programs," said Holmberg, pointing to Edina and Minnetonka as nearby examples. And STEM programs and schools are cropping up all over the metro -- Minnesota now has several dozen statewide.

In a survey conducted for the district last year, 52 percent of parents said they liked the idea of a language immersion program for elementary students. Spanish was the most popular language in the survey, followed by Chinese.

Anecdotally, parents touring local schools often ask whether their kids would have a chance to learn a second language, said Sam Richardson, principal of Glendale Elementary and a member of the committee.

The group's work will include best-practices research on the various STEM and language programs that schools offer, Holmberg said. The committee is also likely to visit at least a few other metro-area schools with special programs.

Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016

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