The Prior Lake-Savage School District will offer a school-within-a-school for gifted students this fall, the school board decided Monday.

In a unanimous vote, the board approved plans for the new academy at WestWood Elementary in Prior Lake.

Plans call for one classroom each of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders who qualify on tests.

The district has already started recruiting eligible students, though not all of the children who currently receive gifted instruction in the district meet testing benchmarks for the academy. District students will get priority for spots in the academy, followed by highly qualified students from outside Prior Lake and Savage.

A task force of parents and teachers recommended the program, partly as a way to retain students who would otherwise leave the district in search of more rigorous instruction at private schools or gifted academies in communities such as Bloomington and Inver Grove Heights.

The academy will teach regular lessons at a faster pace, along with challenging projects designed for advanced students.

The district says it can start the program without spending extra money. Instead, it will tap its existing gifted program and student services budgets.