New faces, programs on tap at ACSD as school district phases in International Baccalaureate

MIDDLEBURY — “New beginnings” is certainly an apt term to describe this Wednesday’s resumption of classes in the Addison Central School District.
Students from the seven district-member towns will be greeted by a faculty that includes 32 new teachers. And many children will be adjusting to a new way of learning, through the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
The Addison Central School District includes Middlebury Union middle and high schools, and the elementary schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge. Peter Burrows is superintendent of the ACSD, and he took some time last week to preview the 2018-2019 academic year, given some of the changes and new educational challenges students will see when they report for the first day of classes, Aug. 29.
The larger-than-usual turnover in faculty is largely due to a number of teacher retirements this past June — 26, to be precise. The ACSD board last year again offered an early retirement incentive option to veteran educators, and many accepted. Their replacements have in large part been hired at lower salaries, thus allowing the district to trim its personnel expenses during a time when student enrollment is declining — by 50 students at the high school alone.
Also joining the ACSD ranks this month are 16 new support staff and two new special education coordinators, according to Burrows.
“It’s a really exciting time, because we’re going through so much change right now in our work with IB, becoming a unified district and welcoming in all these new teachers,” Burrows said.
This will be year three of ACSD’s transition to the IB program. Launched during the 1960s and now offered in more than 4,000 schools worldwide, the IB program “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” according to the program’s mission statement.
ACSD is the first public school union in Vermont to take on the switch to IB. The program, according to an overview on the ACSD website, “presents educators with a curriculum framework that focuses on big-picture concepts and promotes an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning. It is a framework that is consistent with what educational research deems best practice in the 21st century. The concept-based inquiry-driven approach begins in the Primary Years Program (PYP) and continues in the Middle Years Program (MYP) and the Diploma Program (DP).”
ACSD is in the process of developing all three distinct IB programs. The Primary Years Program will be implemented in all seven elementary schools for grades Pre-K through 6. The Middle Years Program will serve the middle and high schools, serving grades 7 through 10. And the Diploma Program will be an option for students in grades 11 and 12.
Students who pass the rigorous IB Diploma program — which includes community service and an extended essay — “receive significant college credit and can enter some universities as a sophomore,” Burrows said.
The district is also currently exploring the possibility of offering a separate “IB Career-related Program” in partnership with the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center.
Burrows said ACSD is on schedule to have an authorized IB programming in place for full implementation during the 2019 -2020 academic year.
International Baccalaureate studies this year will dovetail with a longer school day and new “block schedule” at the high school. That schedule, as described by high school officials, will consist of eight, 83-minute blocks as follows: odd-numbered blocks (1-3-5-7) to meet on Mondays and Thursdays, and even-numbered blocks (2-4-6-8) to meet on Tuesdays and Fridays. All eight blocks will meet on Wednesdays for 40 minutes.
Most courses will run on a yearlong basis, though a few may still be offered by semester, according to Principal Bill Lawson.
“This change will enhance opportunities for learning concurrently — making interdisciplinary connections as learning occurs,” Lawson and his colleagues wrote in an Aug. 9 welcome back letter to the school community. “To facilitate this, we have scheduled teacher collaborative planning time for each department. We have attempted to mesh our schedule as closely as possible with that of the Hannaford Career Center.
Officials noted a 30-minute “flex time” period has been added to the middle of the school day, allowing students to seek out extra help from teachers, or to participate in such offerings as social/emotional supports groups, wellness/fitness activities or a “variety of other special interest activities.”
Addison Central schools this year will also introduce a new security protocol for active shooting incidents, dubbed “alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate (ALICE).” Teachers and students will receive ALICE training this fall.
Burrows believes students have a lot to look forward to this year. And he’s confident ACSD school programming will make the district’s seven member-communities even more attractive to families with school-aged children.
“We’re hoping to be a beacon to move to, to be part of an exceptional educational community,” Burrows said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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