Winona Area Public Schools seek to improve school climate

WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) – Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) are taking extra steps toward equality for all students.

The district is launching a 3 year partnership with the Regional Centers of Excellence and the Minnesota Department of Education School Climate Center.

The organizations will assist a cohort of teachers, support staff, principals and administrators to help reevaluate the current climate at Winona schools and see where positive change can be made.

Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit says this new partnership will be crucial to increasing equity in Winona Area Public Schools.

Much of this work for inclusion has been ongoing in Winona schools already. including a graduation improvement plan with the Regional Centers of Excellence for the Winona Area Learning Center. But this new partnership will take those various initiatives and align them under one shared vision, placing the focus on an improved school climate for all students and families.

“Most importantly, we want our students and staff to feel supported and safe when they walk through our doors each and every day,” says Director of Learning and Teaching for WAPS, Karla Winter.

Winter says the benefits of assessing school climate through the partnership go beyond inclusion, and can improve overall academic performance.

“Research shows that climate can improve attendance, academic achievement, staff and student retention, graduation rates, and discipline disparities. It’s all encompassing,” says Winter.

Improvement strategies include developing a school climate vision that aligns with community values, as well as taking a school climate assessment. There will also be increased training on inclusion, and bullying and harassment training for staff.

The partnership comes at no cost to the district, and is not required or mandated by the state. The cohort of district leaders will meet once a month to plan the needs for each school.