Iberville Parish School System is starting a new academy this fall that will give parents and students yet another choice when it comes to education.
The system’s fifth themed academy, called the “Starship Program,” will feature a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The new program is an offshoot of the school district’s beloved Math, Science and Arts academies and will facilitate the full reopening of the old North Iberville High in Rosedale — a campus whose 2009 closure was bitterly opposed by the community.
“The whole idea is to have students become independent learners; this is so important right now,” Superintendent Ed Cancienne said. “We’re trying to promote science and technology at the middle school level because the Department of Defense predicts (most) high-level jobs dealing with science and engineering will be held by immigrants coming into the country.”
Last week, the school district’s Chief Academic Officer Elvis Cavalier presented the program to the School Board. Board members unanimously supported the program, which is expected to cost about $250,000 to implement.
Cavalier said the new program will be geared toward the district’s higher-achieving students with enrollment for its inaugural class limited to sixth-, seventh-, eighth- and ninth- graders with a 3.0 grade-point average and mastery or advanced scoring on state assessment tests.
“It’s going to be very rigorous so we have to make sure they can handle it,” he said.
The Starship Program is open to all students in the parish. They will be bused daily to the North Iberville campus to attend classes that begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 1:30 p.m.
At the end of classes, students will be bused back to their home schools where they can participate in after-school and extracurricular activities.
Through its partnership with LSU’s College of Engineering, students will attend special functions at LSU. In addition, college professors will work with teachers and students.
Cavalier has hired four teachers who will develop the program’s hands-on, project-based curriculum. The program will feature many dual-enrollment options for students who want to get a jumpstart on their college education.
“We don’t need ‘Project Lead the Way’ or ‘Project Jump Over the Moon,’ ” he quipped, referring to strained efforts in Pointe Coupee Parish to develop a similar program in that district. “We got our own experts to develop the curriculum.”
Renovations of the second floor of the old North Iberville High — now called Shady Grove School — are underway.
The school system previously spent about $100,000 to renovate the bottom floor of the building when it launched its MSA-North Virtual Academy in 2013.
Cancienne said the MSA-North Virtual Academy program will move to the Plaquemine High Opt Center when the Starship Program takes flight in the fall.
School Board member Pam George, who represents the Rosedale area, said the program probably won’t appease the scores of parents in the community who were disheartened when the superintendent shutdown the North Iberville campus six years ago.
But, she said, that can’t be the board’s biggest concern right now.
“I don’t feel we are properly prepping students enough to get these higher-paid jobs,” George said of her support of the program. “For the most part it’s the parents that want the school open, but most of the students that went there are fine where they are now.”
Cavalier said he hopes to have the inaugural class selected before the end of the current school year.
The first class will have to attend a two-week mandatory summer camp before classes begin in August.
“I’m thinking we’ll accept 15 per grade level,” Cavalier said. “Depending on how many children apply, we may have to do a lottery to make our selections.”
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