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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Joseph Williams Elementary School to begin IB Primary Years Program next school year

Starting Fall 2024, the “whole school” program will foster student inquiry

Joseph Williams Elementary School on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.
Joseph Williams Elementary School on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

The 2024-2025 school year will mark the beginning of Joseph Williams Elementary School’s International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program. 

The IB PYP magnet is a school-wide curriculum designed to foster a love for learning through student inquiry. 

As a “whole school” program, IB PYP emphasizes collaboration between students and teachers, Alachua County Public Schools Spokesperson Jackie Johnson said. 

“This is a program that is designed for all students. It must be implemented so that every child in a school takes advantage and all the children are working together,” she said. 

The program incorporates state and local curriculum to ensure students “meet and exceed” state standards.  

Superintendent Shane Andrew has been interested in expanding IB programs in Alachua County since his time as principal at Eastside High School, which hosts a “very successful” IB program, Johnson said. 

“He was very familiar with the benefits for students who participate in the IB program,” Johnson said. “But he’s had an interest in expanding it, not just to other grades, but to a wider variety of students.” 

Joseph Williams’ diverse student body is one of the reasons why the school was picked for the implementation of IB PYP. The school’s faculty and availability to grow student enrollment also contributed to the selection.

Joseph Williams is currently designated as a magnet for gifted and talented students, and those students will be transitioned into the IB PYP program, Johnson said. 

Students zoned for Joseph Williams won’t need to apply for the program. 

Claire Kuntz, a 19-year-old UF linguistics and communication science freshman, attended the IB program at Eastside High School. 

The IB program allowed Kuntz to explore her academic interests and learn from different lenses. 

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“I feel that it really let me take some of my curiosity and be able to pursue it on my own,” she said. 

Kuntz thinks IB PYP will be good for elementary students to grow their curiosity and passion for learning. 

“I think curiosity in learning is one of the most important things in getting kids really interested in education,” she said. 

Magnet school applications opened Jan. 16. Families can apply online to a maximum of three programs. 

Once the application closes Feb. 13, 50% of the slots will be chosen by the schools. After the schools make their selection, the other 50% are assigned by the random lottery to students who meet the minimum program requirements, the director of state reporting Kimberly Neal said. 

Families receive notifications on whether they were selected for admission and a deadline to accept or reject their offer. Some students get placed on waitlists and others may receive multiple program offers, Neal said. 

Families on the waitlist receive offers throughout the summer and up to 15 days into the school year to join a magnet program. 

Applicant numbers vary by year, but Neal said she is hopeful for large numbers for the 2024-2025 school year. 

“We’ve done a lot of publicity this year. We’re really hoping to get even more applicants than in the past,” she said. 

Each magnet program has a varying number of seats available. Elementary magnets have 36 seats available per program, and middle school programs have a range between 44 and 132 seats per program. 

“At the high school level, they range from 18 at some of our very small programs up to 150,” Neal said. 

Although Joseph Williams Elementary School includes students zoned for the school and students already in the gifted and talented program, there are still seats available for interested families. 

Contact Megan Howard at Follow her on X @meganmhxward.

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Megan Howard

Megan Howard is a second-year journalism major and the K-12 Education reporter for The Alligator. When she's not writing, you can find her rewatching the Eras Tour movie or reading The Hunger Games series.

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