The Belton School District is a step closer to transforming the way high school students learn.
The district has been awarded a two-year Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Individual Schools Grant. The award, $225,000 per year, will support the district’s master plan for Belton High School.
This transformation, based on the Ford Next Generation Learning framework, calls for opening three academies within the high school during the 2019-20 school year. Students will be part of at least one academy.
In the new academy program, students will continue to have core curriculum and meet Missouri learning standards. However, the curriculum will be taught through the lens of each student’s college or career goals.
Along with their studies, students will also be involved in activities relevant to their career aspirations, such as job shadowing, holding internships and visiting colleges. The 2019-20 freshman class will be the first to participate in the comprehensive four-year program.
“What comes from this experience is a career and life focus,” said Sara Jones, Belton School District assistant superintendent of pupil services. “The students will acquire Industry Recognized Credentials, gain college credits, and be more prepared for college and the workforce.”
“The Ford NGL framework of college and career academies provides such excitement for students,” said Stacey Yurkovich, Belton assistant principal and director of academies. “They are excited about their learning and more knowledgeable about what they want to do with their lives.
“It’s a relevance kids can’t get in the traditional models we have. This is for every student. It’s not just for the college-bound or for those who already know what they want to do. It’s for every student on their individual pathways and making future plans.”
For the past two years, the district has collaborated with a 50-member team to develop a master plan for this transformation. Parents, students, business leaders, teachers, school administrative staff, the school board, higher education faculty, economic development council members, the mayor and other community members contributed to the process.
Yurkovich said, “Our current students have been critical in discussing what we need to do to improve. They’ve been very engaged, and their input has been invaluable for the school district and the community.”
At the conclusion of the planning process, three academies were identified, based on meeting discussions, feedback from the team, workforce data and other information.
The academies launching in fall 2019 will be science and industry, business and technology, and public services. Several programs will fall under the umbrella of each.
The science and industry academy will offer agriculture science, construction and architecture, and engineering. Under the public services umbrella is an education pathway, health services, a bio-medical track, and a public services path, including law enforcement and public safety. Business and technology programs will include marketing and management, accounting and finance, and information technology.
“Nashville started the Ford NGL program 10 years ago in all of their metro area schools,” Yurkovich said. “The impact it has made on the students, schools and community has been phenomenal. They have mastered the components very well. It’s exciting to get a snapshot of the success and potential of this program.”
Both Yurkovich and Jones envision that success and potential for their high school students and the entire Belton community.
Jones said, “I’ve worked in the Belton School District for 19 years as an administrator at various levels. I’ve always been very proud of how we provide for our students.
“I know this transformation is probably the biggest change we’ve made over those 19 years in how we provide that instruction and meet students’ needs. Of all the changes, this one will make the biggest difference in their futures.”