Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay announced a plan to transition existing elementary schools in the district to themed academies beginning fall 2018. The elementary academies will be grades K-3.
The announcement came at the Board of Education meeting Thursday, March 23.
The first school to make the transition to an academy will be Cowart Elementary. Cowart has housed SPARK Academy this year and will become a full STEM Academy in August 2017. Plans for transitioning the remaining three elementary schools are in the beginning stages and are being led by the ACS Instructional Leadership Team under the direction of Garner Ezell, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for ACS. Timelines are under development for the roll out of the plan’s specific details and implementation.
The plan is expected to go before the board for a vote at the May 11 Board of Education meeting at the ACS central office.
The academy concept will look similar to today’s elementary school with the fundamental difference being that the academy teaches through a specific “lens” or focus.
“Each elementary will continue teaching to the standards of the Alabama Course of Study per the Alabama State Department of Education. The difference is that these standards will be taught through academy specific themes,” said Holladay.
The academy theme selections will be determined through a collaborative and transparent process that will include teachers, parents, and community members. A public meeting will be held at Athens High School, April 18 at 6:30 p.m. to provide parents the opportunity to ask questions and learn about the academy concept. Various surveys will also be distributed as a way to obtain input.
Existing zoning for elementary schools will not change. However, a family may apply to a different academy outside their school zone. The criteria for students requesting enrollment in an academy outside their school zone will be determined after input is received from all stakeholders. Busing will be provided.
Along with this change, Athens City Schools will see a school realignment. Beginning fall 2018, all elementary schools will be K-3. Fourth and fifth grades will become Athens Intermediate School. Athens Middle School will consist of grades 6-8 and will be moved to the current Athens High School building. Grades 9-12 will be at the new Athens High School currently under construction next to the Board of Education central office.
Another innovative opportunity that will be available to Athens High School sophomores, juniors and seniors in fall 2017 is the Athens Creative Exchange. This program is designed to be a partnership between Athens City Schools, students, parents and the business community to provide real-world opportunities for students to develop hands-on skills outside the classroom.
The goal is to move students outside the traditional school environment and place them in local businesses or with craftsmen and artisans where they can develop workforce readiness skills and acquire marketable skills. Their experience complements the earned credits in the core academic areas to fulfill graduation requirements
The program will meet in Downtown Athens during school. While there, students will take pre-approved courses in which the curriculum is blended seamlessly into the program. The program is designed to be flexible. It will allow students to participate in athletics or band. It will also combine participation in this program with Advanced Placement or dual enrollment courses. The program is designed to be completely personalized, meeting the needs and interests of students.
The first Athens Creative Exchange information session is April 24, 6:00 p.m., at Athens High School. Registration opens April 25. Interested students and parents may call Dr. Rick Carter at 256-233-6600 for more information.
For questions regarding the Athens Elementary Academies, please call 256-233-6600.