The Jefferson County school system will be adding a new magnet program for middle school students.
Starting in August, students in grades 6-8 will be able to enroll in the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate program, known as the Middle Years Program, or MYP.
A recent federal court order granted the Jefferson County Board of Educationthe right to reconfigure grades throughout the county, allowing the new program to be created.
The MYP will be temporarily based in the former Pleasant Grove Middle School building. According to the court order, the school will need to eventually move to a more centrally located setting because of its county-wide distinction.
In order to attend, students in Jefferson County must apply and be accepted to the new program. Those who are accepted to the JCIB Middle School will be automatically admitted into the high school program upon completion of the MYP.
The IB program has previously been offered only to high school students in Jefferson County. In recent years, the school has received national recognition for being one of the most difficult in the country. In 2016, it ranked as the ninth most challenging school in the nation, based on a report by the Washington Post.
For the past two years, the board has been trying to secure the middle school program, according to county superintendent Craig Pouncey.
"Our goal is to expand the number of students that are exposed to the rigorous curriculum of IB in those middle grades, so that hopefully in the near future, we can grow out the number of graduates that are completing the high school IB program," Pouncey said.
With around 270 students, the new school will employ 17 teachers in areas including math, science, humanities, English, visual arts, technology, foreign languages and physical education. Band will also be offered as an option to students. The school is expected to expand to more than 300 students over the next few years.
According to Shannon Stanley, deputy superintendent for Jefferson County schools, the teachers at the middle school and high school will work closely in developing the curriculum.
“This faculty at the Middle Years program will be working hand-in-hand with the existing faculty at JCIB Shades Valley Campus," Stanley said. "The important part of this is that we have a very fluid program between the Middle Years and the diploma option. The goal is to have that 6th-12th sequencing and development so that our kids are ready and they can earn that IB diploma successfully."
Pouncey emphasized that the new program will set students up for future success, particularly when they move up to the high school level.
“We really want to grow the number of students that we have in JCIB, the diploma program," Pouncey said. "We also want to make sure more of our students are graduating with an IB diploma. With the middle years program, we actually are building the foundation for the students to be successful at those higher levels. Our goal was to open up that opportunity for upcoming sixth, seventh and eighth graders to begin building that foundation for the IB curriculum and be more successful."
The middle school will start on August 15, two days later than other county schools. During this time, incoming students will go through an orientation session.
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