Blueprint for future?: Eagleton Middle School to launch ninth grade academy
By Matthew Stewart | The Daily Times
Eagleton Middle School is getting ready to open a ninth grade academy that will cater to a small student group.
The Blount County of Education has approved Principal Becky Stone’s proposal for the Eagleton Bridge Academy, which will host between 25 and 30 students. The optional program will require parent and staff agreement for student enrollment.
School officials are distributing applications to interested families and students, Stone said. Committee members will review and evaluate the applications, and they should make their selections by April.
System-level administrators laud the school’s efforts.
“Eagleton Bridge Academy blends the best aspects of our middle school program and our ninth grade academies,” said Dr. Jane Morton, grades 6-12 instructional supervisor. “We’re proud of what they’ve done, and Eagleton Middle School’s faculty and staff should be proud, as well.”
“Eagleton Bridge Academy is a nontraditional way to better meet student needs that involves the entire community,” said Director of Schools Rob Britt. “It’s what we want our principals to do. We want them to be proactive, identify needs and potential solutions and try something innovative and creative. Becky has taken a great idea and poured a lot of thought and detail into it to make it work. She’s also done it in a cost effective way.”
Stone has talked with students, parents, business leaders and community members about the program. She’s already received commitments from Alcoa Walmart manager Boyce Smith, Clayton Homes Controller David Jordan, Home Depot manager David Dunn, Chris Denny of Airport Honda and Y-12 Federal Credit Union.
The principal has located the majority of resources, except one additional teacher who will be required for the program. The school district will need to reallocate this teacher.
School officials are looking at different internal options, Morton said. They have discussed using a high school teacher for several periods, in addition to potential distance learning opportunities.
Started in August
Educators started discussing in August the possibility for a ninth grade academy located on Eagleton Middle School’s campus, Stone said. A situation involving a Heritage High School ninth-grader was the impetus for these discussions.
“We were distraught about the situation, and we started talking about doing something at Eagleton Middle School,” she said. “We’re on a special mission at this school. We have some great faculty, and we believe that we can take kids to the next level.”
After identifying a potential solution, school officials presented their idea to faculty, parents and system-level administrators. They later developed a committee, which is composed of supervisors, teachers, students and business leaders.
The committee, which first met together in November, has helped finalize the program’s design, Stone said. “Whether students go to high school in the ninth grade or 10th grade, it’s going to be a different experience. Our goal is to provide them with a strong foundation.”
Students will have the opportunity to earn at least 10 high school credits and pass three end-of-course exams at Eagleton Bridge Academy, she said. They will make selections from a list of required courses, including algebra, biology, content area reading, English, environmental science, geography, general music, personal fitness and wellness.
Heritage High School’s Ninth Grade Academy offers 10 high school credits, Morton said. Eagleton Bridge Academy is exploring ways to offer 11 high school credits. They have discussed embedding computer applications into core classes.
Educators will offer individualized instruction in these classes, Stone said. “We can be more personal, because we’re small. It’s a special opportunity, and we’re going to be able to present a real gift to the high school. Our students should start with 11 credits and three EOCs (end-of-course exams) under their belt. That’s huge! As an educator, you’re always looking for opportunities to help students grow and find success in many different ways. We’ve found one.”
Eagleton Bridge Academy will be located in the current Head Start area, said Dr. John Dalton, supervisor of pre-K-5 and technology. The Head Start classrooms will be relocated to other elementary schools throughout the district.
School officials are meeting with community partners to outline plans for the area’s transformation, Stone said. “The classes will look extremely different. We want it to be special for our students. We don’t want them to feel like they’re walking back into Eagleton Middle School. They’re walking into Eagleton Bridge Academy.”
Students will have their own entrance and eating area, she said. They can also participate in all Heritage High School activities, and Eagleton Middle School’s faculty and staff has worked with the high school’s faculty and staff to ensure the needs of Eagleton Bridge Academy’s students are met.
School officials are currently seeking classroom sponsors, Stone said. Each classroom will be outfitted with interactive whiteboards, televisions and e-book readers.
Eagleton Bridge Academy hopes to organize an open house in mid-July, she said.
System-level administrators will be keeping a close eye on the Eagleton Bridge Academy, Morton said. “The Bridge Academy could definitely serve as a blueprint for the other middle schools. It’s a unique way to address entry into high school.”
The school district’s three other middle schools don’t have the internal resources — both staff and space — to implement a similar program at this time, she said. Carpenters Middle, Heritage Middle and Union Grove Middle schools are at their physical capacities.
“Since internal resources are in short supply at the other middle schools, Eagleton Middle School has a unique opportunity,” Morton said. “We hope to see great academic success and improved student confidence as they make their last K-12 transition.”