Details on pilot program for freshmen revealed

JAMES CITY- School officials from both Williamsburg-James City County Schools and the College of William and Mary unveiled details about the Pathways Project, a “student-centered learning” pilot program at Warhill High School, set to begin this Fall.

The program will experiment with new ways for students to learn, prioritizing hands-on, project-based learning over standardized tests, said Warhill Principal Jeff Carroll, who spoke to the Board. 

The program is open to 100 ninth graders regardless of where they are districted to attend high school. If more than 100 ninth graders sign up for the program, the district will use a lottery system to select participants. 

Several board members said they felt the program needed to be open to students of all academic abilities, and Superintendent Steve Constantino said he agreed.

"I don’t want 100 of the best and the brightest in this program," he said. "I want a cross section of our community.”

The program was initiated by a $50,000 innovative-planning grant Williamsburg-James City County received from the state and aims to rethink the traditional structure of high school.

Carroll took several questions from Board members about the Pathways Project.

Board Member Sandy Young (Berkeley-JCC) said she was concerned about the program starting with ninth graders and asked if maturity level had been taken into consideration.

“I’ll have them as freshmen one way or another,” said Carroll. “We are hoping the ideas behind this will increase student engagement.”

“I fully endorse this,” said James Beers (Roberts-JCC). “I think it’s a very exciting initiative.”

The $50,000 grant WJCC already received went toward planning costs. A $50,000 implementation grant is in the Governor’s proposed budget. If the grant remains in the budget’s final form, WJCC would automatically receive the implementation funds.

“We are not expecting to spend any money not budgeted,” said Constantino. “At the present time we may be reshuffling and reorganizing, but we will not be coming back to the Board and ask for more money.”

Constantino added that if money becomes available from the state, the district would ask for it.

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