South Washington County Schools

Cluster Classrooms

Grades 3-5

A cluster classroom is a regular mainstream classroom in which a small group or cluster of identified gifted learners are placed together. The classroom teacher has the skills necessary to meet the needs of gifted learners. The size of the cluster may be as few as two or as many as ten students. The rest of the cluster classroom is composed of students of varying ability.  Cluster classrooms are based on the Schoolwide Cluster Grouping Model developed by Marcia Gentry and adapted by Susan Winebrenner. 
Gifted Education services in District 833 are curriculum based. The curriculum for students in the cluster classroom is based on our district's core curriculum which is differentiated to meet the needs of all learners. Able learners may progress at an accelerated rate or at an in-depth level. A primary objective of the cluster classroom is to place greater emphasis on high level cognitive abilities. The cluster classroom also provides the students with an opportunity to interact with their intellectual peers. All students benefit when teachers focus on expanding, extending, and enhancing classroom learning opportunities.
Gifted Education services are provided at all District 833 elementary schools through the Levels of Service approach. These levels are based on the individual programming model developed by Dr. Donald Treffinger of the Center for Creative Learning, Inc. in Sarasota, Florida. For more information about opportunities at your school, please contact your child's classroom teacher.



Please click on the link below for the Gateway Mission and Vision document.

Gateway Mission and Vision

Gateway is a “program within a school” for students who are highly gifted and have exceptional abilities. The "program within a school" is comprised of five classrooms serving selected students in grades 3 through 5. It is located at Valley Crossing Elementary.  
Gateway has been successful in challenging highly gifted students who have demonstrated needs beyond the Cluster Classroom model. Transportation is provided for students who come from any of the sixteen elementary sites across the district.
This program:
  • Establishes rigorous academic goals that meet and exceed District 833 curriculum
  • Incorporates multiple learning styles and  intelligences by compacting and differentiating instruction
  • Fosters higher level thinking in a community of academically astute minds
  • Creates a cohesive peer community of gifted learners

See below for more details on Gateway interest forms and supporting information: 

Gifted Education is available to all gifted learners in a cluster classroom in all District 833 neighborhood schools. Please Note: Gateway placements are initiated when families request a review of a student’s placement, but are not essential to receiving gifted education in District 833.

Dates for current 833 families considering Gateway for 2019-2020

Important information for non-resident families

Fall 2018

The Gateway Interest Form and supporting documents are available on the Gifted Education website - see below

January 10, 2019         5:00-6:00 PM

Gateway (Grades 3-5) Information Session at Valley Crossing: This event is focused on parents.  A tour of the school will not be available during the evening.

*For parents of students identified as gifted learners in 833, currently in grades 2 and 3

January 18, 2019


Family Gateway Interest Forms due to Gifted Education at the District Service Center no later than 4:00 p.m.

*7362 E. Point Douglas Rd. S., Cottage Grove, MN 55016

February 12,

Learning Environment Recommendations for fall will be mailed to families who submitted Gateway Interest Forms

February 27, 2019

Family Confirmation of Gateway Learning Environment for 2019-2020 due

The Gateway Interest process has been completed for the 2018-2019 school year.

2019 - 2020 Information: Updated forms are now available



Middle Schools (Grades 6-8)

Developing critical, creative and complex thinkers is the foundation for gifted middle school instructional design.
Gifted learners are placed together into cluster classrooms for their core classes: language arts, social studies, science & math with teachers who have been identified and specifically trained to meet the needs of a gifted young adolescent. 
Each middle school has a gifted education specialist or coach on staff to support students and families.
Gifted education services are provided at all District 833 middle schools through the Levels of Service approach. These levels are based on the individual programming model developed by Dr. Donald Treffinger of the Center for Creative Learning, Inc. in Sarasota, Florida. To learn more about our district middle schools, see the school website, contact the building gifted education specialist, gifted coach or the principal of your child’s middle school.
For information about Gifted Education in 833 Middle Schools please click here for the GE Middle School Brochure.

Gifted Coach

Each middle school has a teacher responsible for being the coach for gifted students in their school. This staff member is available to focus on students’ progress, identify key adult advocates, meet with the students periodically throughout the year and create a foundation to embed gifted education services within the context of middle school philosophy. Each Gifted Education Coach has extensive training in gifted education and expertise on the unique needs of high ability and gifted students, effective learning environments, instructional strategies, and content design. For information specific to your child's middle school, please see your contact person below.
  Cottage Grove                   Susan Nicholas                                     snichola@sowashco.org
  Lake Anne Bleyl                                          ableyl@sowashco.org
  Oltman Brianne Anfinson                                     banfinso@sowashco.org
  Woodbury Eileen McElrath                                   emcelrat@sowashco.org

The amount of time this staff member has allocated for student case management varies by site as some are also classroom teachers. Middle school counselors are also available to support students and parents.