Parents and students looking for a small school experience that embraces a world view education may want to take a close look at the Westminster Academy for International Studies (WAIS).
The school will open as a K-6 school in the fall of 2016 and add grades 7 and 8 in the following years. Opening at the site of the current Westminster Elementary School at 75th and Irving, WAIS will offer a well-rounded education with the addition of Spanish language instruction for students. Additional languages may be added in future years.
The Board of Education approved plans for the school this spring and registration is now underway. Renovation work on the building will be completed this summer ensuring the school will be ready for arriving students in the fall.
In addition to language instruction and a curriculum exposing students to different world cultures and customs, the school will offer diverse before and after school programming. Full day preschool will also be available.
You can learn more about the school and begin the registration process here.
Below is a conversation with WAIS Principal Russ Warwick:
Why should parents take a look at WAIS?
Because we’re awesome! (laughs) Well—all the schools in the District are awesome, but we are very unique in our awesomeness. We’re developing some very engaging before and after school programming in a variety of different academic subject areas and we have an outstanding staff. Programming aside, we have this very cozy feeling to our school— the adults know all the kids by name and all the kids know the adults by name. If you like that kind of personal connection, we’re definitely the place to send your students. Most importantly, I think it’s an opportunity to really build a school together. We’re rolling out 6th grade next year—but over the next three years we are going to be adding 7th and 8th and we’re absolutely going to need our kids’ and our parents’ help. There’s a great opportunity here to help create the kind of school that parents, kids, teachers and staff really want to be at. It’s exciting!
How will Spanish language be taught in the school?
Spanish will be taught in 45-60 minute rotations just like the typical elementary school PE, Art and Gym classes. In these classes, kids will be taught not only conversational Spanish but reading and writing in Spanish as well. The end goal will be to have some pretty proficient Spanish speakers by the time they leave us in the 8th grade. We’re definitely not an immersion or dual language school, but we are going to have a robust Spanish program here. Spanish is really important for our community! We have a number of our Spanish speaking kids that really want and need instruction in Spanish literacy so that they are truly literate in two languages. Research shows that instruction in a student’s native language has a big impact on their reading, writing and speaking in English. Additionally our monolingual English speaking kids are only going to benefit by learning a second language. I know if I could turn back the clock I would have worked a lot harder in my Spanish classes as high schooler—now I’m desperately trying to get caught up through Rosetta Stone.
So it’s going to make kids more prepared for not only high school but for the world outside of high school.
Absolutely. A second language is something colleges and employers look for in their applicants. We want to make sure that our kids are ready to compete in those settings—even if it’s a ways down the road. In the future, we would really like to explore programming for more world languages, but we’re starting with Spanish first.
I’m interested in the idea, but don’t want to sacrifice the “education basics.” Should I be concerned?
Not at all. Even though we have an International Studies focus, the same standards and competencies for elementary and middle school statewide are taught; we are just using an International Studies lens. As the school year progresses next year we will be exploring the possibility of being a PYP/MYB candidate school: this is the program that leads to the IB program at the high school. We won’t be sacrificing the basics but going well beyond the basics!
Will CBS still be taught?
Of course. We have seen great gains over the past three years due to our CBS system. Our local measures have shown three years of improvement on Scantron testing in reading and math and DIBELS testing in reading fluency. We had a special celebration this year for a good portion of our second grade that are preforming at a fourth grade level equivalent in math this year! They’re better at math than I am! We’re not going to abandon those practices, in fact, we want to strengthen them. CBS will definitely be our bedrock and we’re going to continue refine that system until we get our all our kids preforming at grade level or higher.
How do I apply?
We have applications here at the building and are working on an online model. We do prefer the in-person visit, however, because it gives us an opportunity to make a personal connection with perspective applicants. We’re really looking for students and parents that want to be hands on and help us build this program—that kind of engagement always happens face to face. That being said, we know folks are busy so we are building out our online model.
I live outside of the Westminster Public School boundaries. Can my student attend WAIS?
Yes! We love kids whether or not they are in our boundaries, and we know that many parents prefer to drive their kids to a school they love if they can. We also know that the new Light Rail station going in just down the block from us is going to change how folks in the suburbs get to work in Denver. We think WAIS will be a convenient stop for parents who take Light Rail to and from work, and our before and after school programming will make that commute even easier in terms of timing. I’m a new dad myself, so I know how important flexibility is in the people taking care of your kids while you are at work!