BAKER - School officials pledged Thursday to improve students’ academic performance in the next school year with new programs, facility facelifts and renewed enthusiasm.
The comments came during an opening ceremony - amid the smell of fresh paint and shiny floor wax - for the Baker school system’s latest experiment, an academic magnet school on the campus of Park Ridge Elementary School.
Part of the new look is doing away with the “grade cluster” system in which all the children in a grade attended the same school.
This year, the 214 students in first through fifth grades selected for the magnet program will attend Park Ridge on Groom Road, while the other elementary students will attend either Bakerfield or Baker Heights elementary schools, depending on where they live.
“We have worked very hard over the summer to put a new face on the city of Baker’s schools,” interim school Superintendent Ulysses Joseph told the audience of parents, teachers and other school employees.
The state Education Department labeled three of the district’s five schools as “academically unacceptable” on Tuesday, based on the school performance scores for the last school year. They are Baker Heights and Bakerfield elementary schools and Baker Middle School.
Schools with performance scores less than 65 are placed on the list. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education raised the cutoff score by five points in December.
Baker High School and Park Ridge Elementary remain on an “academic watch list” with scores below 70.
Park Ridge Academic Magnet School will strive to reach “two star” status by 2012, Principal Tammy Armand-Golden said.
The state is replacing its “star” rating system with A through F letter grades this year, but a two-star rating in the 2009-10 school year would have been given to schools with school performance scores ranging from 80 to 99.9.
The letter grades for all schools will be announced in October.
Armand-Golden said the magnet school has new technology for each classroom, and teachers and students may choose among a wide range of extracurricular interests and clubs.
School Board Vice President Elaine Davis said the other two elementary schools and the middle and high school also are in line for new programs to boost student achievement.
“We are going to be a success. We will not take anything less than success,” board President Dana Carpenter said.