Johnson City Board of Education votes on two important items

The Johnson City Board of Education voted on two important items on Thursday night, which help to define the path for the Johnson City School System.

The first vote, 6-0 (Stacie Torbett was absent), approved transitioning to an expanded Advanced Placement program at Science Hill High School while simultaneously phasing out the International Baccalaureate. The second vote, 6-0, gave the district the okay to begin working toward having two middle schools instead of one.

Juniors currently enrolled in the IB program will have the opportunity to complete their IB degree, as the school shifts its focus to earning the Advanced Placement Levels of Distinction, which could include the AP International Diploma and the AP Capstone Diploma.

The board also acted on a recommendation presented by Johnson City Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Barnett in which the district mapped out a preliminary plan for transitioning to two 4-grade middle schools. Those reconfigured schools, Indian Trail and Liberty Bell, would consist of grades five through eight by the year 2019-2020 or 2020-2021. This configuration would replace the current format that has fifth and sixth grade students at Indian Trail for two years before moving to Liberty Bell for seventh and eighth grade.

“This is something that our staff has studied extensively and we feel like this is the best way to provide the most opportunities for our students,” Barnett said. “This will allow students to make a crucial transition from elementary to middle school with a smaller cohort (250-300 students) and we will be able to provide both schools with programs and curriculums that will better prepare our students as they move onto Science Hill High School. Our next step will be to gather input from the community and look at the transportation and facilities.”

In high achieving middle schools that the school system studied, more than 80 percent of 8th grade students earned high school credit by the end of 8th grade. The school system will provide at least one foreign language as part of its curriculum. The district will implement that enhancement under the new two-middle school model. 

The school system plans to set the boundaries for the schools, with Indian Trail educating students from the city’s three largest elementary schools (Fairmont, Lake Ridge and Mountain View). Liberty Bell will educate students from Cherokee, North Side, South Side, Towne Acres and Woodland.

By taking this approach, the district will closely align and balance demographics at both schools.  The Liberty Bell facility has the larger capacity at almost 2,000 students, but a preliminary look at the 2020-2021 class shows that there could be 1,186 students at Indian Trail and 1,320 students at Liberty Bell.

Some proposed academic offerings include Pre-AP Algebra I, Honors English Language Arts, STEM (Grades 5-8), Creative Writing, and more science classes in lab setting and comprehensive special education services. Other proposed enhanced offerings include foreign language, journalism, visual and digital media arts, pre-CTE diversified technology, theatre, chorus, orchestra and band.

Other items

- The 2018-2019 school calendar was passed with a start date of August 6, 2018. Staff will report on August 1.