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After nearly two hours of discussion and many questions, the Minnetonka school board last week agreed to develop a specialized school for exceptionally gifted elementary students.
The district for nearly five years has been studying how to create a program to meet the needs of students whose IQ levels are dramatically higher than the average student.
The School for the Exceptionally Gifted, which will start out as two classrooms within existing schools, will serve students age 8 to 11 who process information at a rate that's so far ahead of their peers that they aren't being served well in the traditional classroom, school officials said.
The district has identified about 50 eligible students with IQs of around 145 or higher. Enrollment will be considered only for students who are already enrolled in Minnetonka schools or living in the district.
One parent in the audience at last week's school board meeting was relieved when the board completed the vote.
Edward Cheng told the board that he and his wife have searched high and low around the Twin Cities and found very few opportunities for his two gifted children.
"It's a wonderful opportunity and a courageous thing that the board did," Cheng said. "It's an area that's under-served and unmet, and, some would argue, neglected."
The proposal received unanimous support, including a vote from member Calvin Litsey, who had urged his colleagues to delay the decision until it's clearer how the school will integrate with other programs the board will consider in the coming months, such as a review of its middle-school model.
But member Karen Walkowski disagreed with Litsey's suggestion and argued if the vote were delayed, the school wouldn't be ready to open by next school year.
"We have to start somewhere," Walkowski said. "Right now we're talking about year-one development. There are still some operational questions, but that's why we hire great staff."
High Potential Services coordinator Mike Postma came to the meeting prepared with answers to many of the operational questions that had been raised by board members and parents who wanted to know the logistics of the school -- location, cost and implementation.
And to make the case for why the school is needed.
"These kids are normal. They're kids," Postma said. "They're just kids with different, unique needs, and they deserve an education like any other student."
Aimée Blanchette • 612-673-1715