Byline: TOPHER SANDERS
By this time next year, more than 500 public high school students in Duval County will no longer have to attend dedicated magnets to experience a high-level, rigorous program.
Taking advantage of federal stimulus money, Duval County Public Schools is rolling out at least one of four accelerated academic programs in 10 neighborhood high schools that previously haven't offered the programs.
The school district wants high school students to have the opportunity to enter advanced programs even if they don't attend Stanton College Preparatory School or Paxon School for Advanced Studies.
"That's the beauty of it," said Carolyn Girardeau, the director of high school accelerated programs. "Students who are in the Arlington area, they no longer have to take that long trip across town. That is what is framing all of this work."
The push is a streamlined and fast-tracked version of the recommendation made last December by an advisory group that recommended the district offer 20 new advanced programs over at least the next five years. Instead, the district will begin 10 programs over the next year to tap the federal money.
Planning for the initiative, materials and summer programming in the first year will cost $1.5 million.
Each school is developing one of three programs: the Early College, Advanced Placement Honors; the University of Cambridge's Advanced International Certificate of Education; or the International Baccalaureate program.
Many of the programs will begin accepting applications in January and will be promoted during the district's Jan. 9 Magnet Mania and More event.
Baldwin Middle-Senior High has already received the Advanced Placement Honors program, which is modeled after the programs at Stanton and Paxon, where students must pass nine AP classes. The school placed about 100 students in the program in August and plans to add another 60 or 80 in January, Principal Rhonda Motley said.
Motley said students have said the classes are difficult but she counsels the students to stick it out because they will help catapult them into college.
"Your reward is in the end once you get into college because you're more prepared for the college courses," Motley said. "All of our kids have the potential; we just have to bring it out of them."
Ed White High School will receive the IB program next school year and will begin with about 50 students.
Jordan Schemmel, Ed White High's IB coordinator, said the program will give the students the opportunity to challenge themselves.
"I think it's really important," Schemmel said, "to give as many students as possible an opportunity to push themselves to that higher level of academic excellence. …