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Iberville Parish schools launching new STEM academy program


PLAQUEMINE, Louisiana — The Iberville Parish School System is starting a new academy this fall that will give parents and students yet another choice when it comes to education.

The Advocate reports ( ) the system's fifth themed academy, called the "Starship Program," will feature a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"The whole idea is to have students become independent learners; this is so important right now," Superintendent Ed Cancienne said. "We're trying to promote science and technology at the middle school level because the Department of Defense predicts (most) high-level jobs dealing with science and engineering will be held by immigrants coming into the country."

The new program is an offshoot of the school district's beloved Math, Science and Arts academies and will facilitate the full reopening of the old North Iberville High in Rosedale — a campus whose 2009 closure was bitterly opposed by the community.

Last week, the school district's Chief Academic Officer Elvis Cavalier presented the program to the School Board, which unanimously supported the program. It's expected to cost about $250,000 to implement.

Cavalier said the new program will be geared toward the district's higher-achieving students with enrollment for its inaugural class limited to sixth-, seventh-, eighth- and ninth- graders with a 3.0 grade-point average and mastery or advanced scoring on state assessment tests.

"It's going to be very rigorous so we have to make sure they can handle it," he said.

The Starship Program is open to all students in the parish. They will be bused daily to the North Iberville campus to attend classes that begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 1:30 p.m.

At the end of classes, students will be bused back to their home schools where they can participate in after-school and extracurricular activities.

Through its partnership with LSU's College of Engineering, students will attend special functions at LSU. In addition, college professors will work with teachers and students.

Cavalier has hired four teachers who will develop the program's hands-on, project-based curriculum. The program will feature many dual-enrollment options for students who want to get a jumpstart on their college education.

Cavalier said he hopes to have the inaugural class selected before the end of the current school year. The first class will have to attend a two-week mandatory summer camp before classes begin in August.

"I'm thinking we'll accept 15 per grade level," Cavalier said. "Depending on how many children apply, we may have to do a lottery to make our selections."

Information from: The Advocate,

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