The Blaine County School District board of trustees voted 4-0 Tuesday to spend $185,188 this summer to build two new classrooms at Woodside Elementary School in southeast Hailey.
The decision, which involves conversion to classrooms of the building area currently used for the district’s Autism Disorder Spectrum program, means that the district will not need to reduce the total number of K-5 Dual Immersion students currently enrolled at Woodside and at Hailey and Bellevue elementary schools.
“It allows us to maintain the same number of south valley elementary DI students and the same model of four strands,” Molly Michalec, the district’s Dual Immersion coordinator, said Wednesday.
Without the new classrooms, the district was facing the possibility of having only three strands of Dual Immersion for south valley elementary school students.
In the district’s Dual Immersion program, students are instructed in both English and Spanish with the intent that the students become fluent in both languages. Dual Immersion students start in the program when in kindergarten and continue with Dual Immersion studies throughout their elementary school studies and even into middle school and high school. A “strand” is the term used to refer to a group of DI classes that runs from grades K-5.
There are currently two strands of DI students at Woodside Elementary and two stands combined at Hailey and Bellevue elementary schools. DI students attend school at Bellevue for grades K-2 and then transfer to Hailey for grades 3-5.
That system will change this coming school year when Woodside Elementary is converted into a magnet school for DI studies only. The change will involve transferring DI students from Hailey and Bellevue elementary schools to Woodside and transferring non-DI students at Woodside to other elementary schools in the district.
Conversion of Woodside into a DI magnet school was approved by the school board in January 2013. With the change, the Autism Disorder Spectrum program, now at Woodside, will be moved this coming school year to Hailey Elementary School.
Also, in a decision approved by the school board late last month, the name of Woodside Elementary School will be changed to Alturas Elementary School when the magnet school opens this fall.
The remodel, contracted by the district to Conrad Brothers Construction of Hailey, is scheduled to be completed this summer
The change in the district’s elementary school Dual Immersion program was studied, analyzed and discussed for nearly two years before the decision to form the magnet school was made by the school board last year.
Also as part of that decision, the board approved leaving a single strand of DI students grades K-5 at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum.
Although the number of south valley DI students will remain at about 500, Michalec said the number of DI students at Hemingway, now with two strands totaling more than 200 students, will be reduced by half over the next six years.
Starting this fall, Hemingway will only have one kindergarten class of DI students. The following year, a first-grade class will be eliminated, followed by a second-grade class the next year and so on until only a single strand remains.
Michalec said the reduction is necessitated by the need for sustainability, with one of the largest factors being the difficulty of finding enough bilingual teachers for Dual Immersion classes.
In other construction matters, the school board on Tuesday also approved spending $383,100 to improve air quality and energy efficiency at Wood River Middle School in Hailey.
The work, to be performed in-house under the direction of Hailey engineer Brian Formusa, involves installation of two energy recovery ventilator systems to improve air quality in two wings of the building. The project also involves installation of “variable frequency drive” devices, at $79,100, that Formusa reported will result in an estimated $18,500 a year in energy savings.
Terry Smith: email@example.com