The Blaine County School District board of trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to change the name of Woodside Elementary School in southern Hailey to Alturas Elementary School.
The new name, when officially implemented later this year, is intended to reflect the new mission of the Woodside school, which next school year will become a “magnet” school for K-5 dual-immersion studies only. In the district’s dual-immersion program, students are instructed in both English and Spanish with the intent that that the students become fluent in both languages.
A typical dual-immersion class is about a 50-50 mix of native English speakers and native Spanish speakers.
Molly Michalec, the program coordinator, explained at a Wednesday special school board meeting that “Alturas” is a Spanish word that means “mountain summits” or “mountainous heights.” The name is consistent with a new school motto: “Together we will reach new heights.”
Further, Michalec said that the word Alturas has historical significance for Blaine County, which was formed in 1895 from parts of the former territorial counties of Alturas and Logan.
Woodside Principal Brad Henson said the name Alturas was chosen to “honor the Spanish component in our community as well.”
Michalec and Henson told the school board that the new name, a vision statement and a mission statement were developed in extensive discussions with teachers, school administrators, parents and community members.
“We really felt that this was something that needed to be clarified ... so that it could guide the rest of our work,” Michalec said.
In addition to the new name, the school board approved a vision statement and a mission statement for Alturas.
The vision statement is: “As a collaborative community, we create pathways of respect, of learning and of appreciation for linguistic and cultural diversity.”
The mission statement is: “We the community of Alturas Elementary: empower learners, enrich experiences, engage as citizens of the world.”
Wednesday’s special school board meeting was chaired by Vice Chairwoman Kathy Baker, who explained that board Chairman Shawn Bennion was unable to attend the meeting. Also present, providing enough board members for a quorum, were Trustees Kathryn Graves and Elizabeth Schwerdtle.
The decision to convert Woodside Elementary School into a dual-immersion magnet school was made by the school board in January of 2013. The plan requires that dual-immersion classes currently at Hailey and Bellevue elementary schools be relocated to Woodside, or Alturas, at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Non-DI students at Woodside will be relocated to either the Hailey or Bellevue schools.
Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum will retain a single dual-immersion class in each of its grades K-5.
The dual-immersion program, started in 2001, is now in its 13th year in the district. Students typically stay with the program, starting in kindergarten, throughout their elementary, middle school and high school studies. The district’s original 2001 class of dual-immersion kindergarteners are now high school seniors.
The School District lists the following eight reasons why it is committed to the program:
- Offers equal access to education.
- Raises self-esteem for all children.
- Better prepares students to meet the challenges of a global society: academically, linguistically and socially.
- Promotes increased cognition, such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
- Supports academic achievement.
- Provides the added value of being functionally literate in two languages.
- Develops an appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures.
- Increases parent and community involvement.