Early College Program extended one year

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Intermediate schools will have a STEAM academy

In a series of three meetings in a week, the Richmond Community School Board decided to continue the intermediate school Early College Program for one more year and move forward with creating a STEAM academy.
The board and school administration had come under criticism from teachers in recent weeks over several issues, including an administrative decision to do away with the Early College Program for the coming school year.
In that program, students who qualify from Test Intermediate and Dennis Middle schools are taken to Hibberd School for fifth through eighth grade. The program is being discontinued because the Richmond High School Early College Program is being discontinued. The state increased training requirements for faculty involved in that program and the school doesn’t have adequate staffing.
Originally, the program had been slated to end after the 2022-23 school year. This spring, teachers learned it would be discontinued at the end of the 2021-22 school year. During a May 24 board meeting in which that change was criticized, the board had said it would decide on a path for the Early College Program at its June 15 meeting.
Near the end of the June 15 meeting, board members said they were not ready to make a decision on when to halt the intermediate Early College Program. Board member Keith Morey said figures presented in May indicated 67 students were involved during the 2021-22 school year. He said he had not heard discussion of the pros and cons for discontinuing the program this year.
Board members asked administrators to set up a meeting of the board’s Educational Working Group and staff concerned with the program for early the following week. They also agreed to have a special board meeting so that staff, parents and students could be notified of the program’s fate as soon as possible.
Board members asked Hibberd Principal Cassie Laudermilk how many students would be included in the coming year’s program since it would not include fifth graders. She said probably about 42 students would be involved, but some of those from this year might not qualify to continue or could decide to go back to Test or Dennis.
In speaking of the need to make a decision, Board President John Weber said, “Keeping the best interests of students in the forefront, knowing it (the Early College Program) is going away, we have to move forward.”
At a special board meeting on June 22, the board approved a plan to keep the Early College program for the coming school year. Dawn Sonsini, director of student achievement, made the recommendation, reporting:
“On Monday, June 20th our Educational Working Group met with Hibberd principal Mrs. Cassie Laudermilk, Early College Program teachers, and Richmond Education Association leaders to discuss Early College Program options for the 2022-2023 school year. Throughout our collaborative processes, all parties were afforded an opportunity to cordially voice their concerns and supports regarding the direction of the program. Collectively we felt that the experience was constructive, and everyone was appreciative to have had the chance to share valuable input and feedback.
“On behalf of the Educational Working Group, we recommend that for the 2022-2023 school year, our Early College Program remain in place there at Hibberd for grades 6-8. This recommendation will allow Early College Program faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders time to prepare for the program’s dissolvement at the conclusion of the 2022 – 2023 academic year. Those Early College Program faculty, staff, and students will then have an opportunity to apply to the Richmond Community Schools STEAM initiative that our corporation is committed to further developing.
“It is our recommendation that you approve the Hibberd Early College Program option as presented for the 2022-2023 school year.”
In the meantime, preparations continue for what is being called a STEM or STEAM academy which would operate at Hibberd with STEAM elective courses at both intermediate schools. The initials stand for science, technology, engineering, art and math.

>> Additional coverage in the June 29 print edition of Western Wayne News.

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