Home News Local news Senate Committee Approves 'School Within a School' on St. Thomas

Senate Committee Approves 'School Within a School' on St. Thomas


April 1, 2008 — Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas plans to implement a "school within a school" focusing attention on ninth graders, starting this fall.
The Department of Education has applied for a federal grant of $992,836 to set up and run the program for five years. The Senate Finance Committee gave its blessing Tuesday in Frederiksted to the grant application and the reallotment of existing school resources and personnel to implement the program. The grant is from the federal Fund for the Improvement of Education, and is aimed at forming "smaller learning communities" (SLC).
"Ivanna Eudora Kean High … proposes to implement a school-improvement plan," said Jeannette Smith-Barry, St. Thomas-St. John Insular Superintendent of Schools. "The goals of this project are to improve student achievement and performance by increasing academic rigor (and) by creating opportunities for teachers and students to build relationships. … Central to the plan will be a ninth grade academy, or a school within a school."
The plan would affect approximately 300 to 350 ninth graders. Classes for ninth graders will be moved so they are all adjacent to one another. Class sizes would be limited, more classes would be taught by teams of two teachers, there would be expanded tutoring, and changes would be made to block scheduling to allow more 90-minute advanced classes. The students may all be given laptop computers.
Ninth grade was chosen because it is a crucial, transitional year for students, as they become adolescents and enter high school. Clement Magras, associate director of Management and Budget, testified on the budget ramifications of the plan, and said his department endorses it.
"This smaller learning community is designed to allow ningth graders to successfully transition from middle school by addressing many of the difficulties … which contribute to failing grades and eventually to drop out," Magras said.
The local government is to supply $1,977,292 of in-kind support. These principally involve re-assigning existing resources for somewhat different purposes. There will be "no additional cost to the local government to operate the program," said Legislative Post-Auditor Francis Laurencin.
This is the first time grant funds are coming to the Virgin Islands for this SLC program, but Charlotte Amalie High School has a similar program in place funded locally, said Kean Principal Sharon Ann McCollum.
Kean High School Grants Writer Dagmar Greenaway applied for the grant earlier this year and is waiting for approval.
The committee approved the request, and now the full Senate must approve it.
Voting yes were Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Neville James, Ronald Russell and James Weber III. Sen. Liston Davis was listed as absent but excused.
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