Many programs in existence at West

WORTHINGTON -- Special Programs at District 518 provides a variety of services to our students, staff and community. Most of these programs are housed or have office space at the old West School building. This article will highlight some of the s...

WORTHINGTON -- Special Programs at District 518 provides a variety of services to our students, staff and community. Most of these programs are housed or have office space at the old West School building. This article will highlight some of the significant events that have taken place this month, just in the north end of the building. Community Education inhabits the south half.

The Area Learning Center, which serves about 60 day students and 30 evening students, hosted a luncheon on March 16 to celebrate the student and staff cultural diversity with a variety of donated items including tacos, chili, egg rolls, Irish Soda Bread and various sweet offerings. The ALC also celebrated the 100th edition of their online newspaper, The Insider, which is available online through District 518's Web site. It is a unique offering written by students under the direction of teachers Ray Lowry and Ron Hyvari. The ALC is currently preparing a schedule of high school summer offerings for June. This program helps area students who are behind in credits to catch up. The Targeted Services part of the ALC program will offer summer school in July for students in next year's grades 1-8 who need a little extra boost academically.

Students from the ALC and eighth-graders from Worthington and adjacent districts that participate in the Nobles County Integration Collaborative (NCIC) -- Adrian, Ellsworth, Fulda and Round Lake-Brewster -- participated in a concert by Brule on March 14. The concert afforded the students the opportunity enjoy the music and hear the story of the lead singer of Brule, Paul LaRoche, who was raised in Worthington. He discussed his personal journey finding his identity as a Native American after being raised in an adoptive home. The presentation was in the West gym.

The Integration Collaborative celebrated another accomplishment on March 11 with the premiere of a video called Voices of Immigrants, which was produced by Sharon Johnson and Heidi Fransen. The premiere took place on Sunday afternoon at Minnesota West. All of the Nobles County immigrants who participated in the film were invited and most attended. On film they shared their stories of coming to the United States and some of the hardships that they faced on the trip and what they found when they arrived. It is a fascinating tale for all residents of Nobles County and offers insight and hope. Copies of the film will be available at a nominal price in the Collaborative Office at West.

The Residential Program at District 518, with offices at West, is in the process of being transferred to the direction of New Dawn later this spring. In the meantime, our dedicated staff -- some of whom have been hired to join the New Dawn team -- continue to serve the needs of our residents and make sure that the transition is as easy as possible for the residents and parents involved. It is a bittersweet passage for this program, which has been of service to so many handicapped students over the years.


Two other programs have office space at West. Spring testing is in full swing under the able coordination of Val Nickel at West and devoted site coordinators in each building. The tests for English Language Learners have almost concluded, and the district Measures of Academic Progress are underway at Prairie Elementary. The Middle School will complete these tests in May after the other state tests, the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, which will begin in April. These are the high-stakes tests that determine if the district is making Adequate Yearly Progress. A later article will be devoted to this complex subject.

Finally, the West building is home to the district office of Special Education. A meeting of the district leadership team for this program took place on March 16. There is always a long agenda as the district works to communicate changing regulations in the area of special education at the state and federal level. One of the topics on the 16th was how to implement a new alternative state test for our most severely cognitively impaired students. This new test is aligned to grade level standards but designed to be given to students who have severe disabilities. One percent of our population may take this test and have it count toward district AYP, or adequate yearly progress. The team also discussed the upcoming summer programming for July and a district wide parent meeting to be held on April 2 at West.

If you are ever curious as to what is going on in the old West building, this article gives you a snapshot of a small piece of what is being accomplished in the north half of the building. It is a busy and productive place. Feel free to visit.

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