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Into the future: 10 stories to look for in 2013

Published 10:52am Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2. New intermediate school opens in August

Austin Public Schools will open the new I.J. Holton Intermediate School in August, which will house all fifth- and sixth-grade public school students from the Austin area. The upcoming school’s principal, Jean McDermott, said sections of the building, which is now under construction, have been sealed up and heated. Crews are laying cement floors and erecting walls.

“It’s been exciting to be able to actually see the rooms come together,” McDermott said. “You get a real notion for what the size and the capacity of the building is going to be.”

The curriculum and programming are already in the works. McDermott said the school will have a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) focus, and include technology like LCD projectors, interactive whiteboards and e-books. A tech integration specialist will be on-hand to work with teachers and administrators in getting new technology more involved in the classroom.

While many parents have expressed interest in touring the school before classes start, construction and other preparations will last up until students arrive. McDermott said there are tentative plans to hold an event closer to late September.

“We’re shooting for maybe Homecoming week,” she said.

Big changes are happening elsewhere in the district, as well. Reading and math scores at Sumner Elementary are on the rise, and early figures suggest the school’s experimental year-round schedule could be a major factor.

During a November school board meeting, Sumner Principal Sheila Berger said the year-round schedule, or 45/15 calendar, is a component of rising MCA test scores. This year saw a 5.6 percent gain in the number of students proficient in reading and a 24.7 percent jump in students proficient in math.

“We felt very strongly the calendar did have a great effect,” Berger said.

So far, the families of Sumner students say they like the chance to recharge during breaks, which come more frequently in a year-round schedule, Berger said. Remedial instruction also reportedly helps students more when interspersed during the year rather than delayed until summer school. The schedule is believed to help cut down on the amount of review students need at the start of a new school year.

Sumner is still in the middle of a three-year trial period of the calendar, but based on what they’ve seen so far, Berger does not recommend it return to a traditional schedule after the trial.

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