High-achieving students in Syracuse will soon have a brand-new school, say city school district officials.
“Kids that can achieve more than the average student should be able to excel,” said Max Ruckdeschel, Syracuse board of education vice president.
The new school will be called Syracuse Latin. The name comes from the inclusion of Latin in the curriculum starting in middle school. It is set to open this fall for the start of the 2014-15 school year. The school will admit fewer than 100 students per grade and it will focus on the classical liberal arts rather than the basic curriculum the district uses in its other schools, Ruckdeschel said.
The school will open in the Percy Hughes Elementary School building at 345 Jamesville Ave. Hughes has been a consistently underperforming school and is being phased out, said Ruckdeschel. The Latin school will begin there with kindergarten and first grade students.
The idea for the Latin school came from Superintendent Sharon Contreras as way to meet one of the goals of the district’s strategic plan, “Great Expectations,” Ruckdeschel said. The plan calls for more programs for high-achieving students,
The superintendent’s preliminary budget plan estimates about a $1 million cost to create Syracuse Latin school, Ruckdeschel said.
He supports advanced education for students, Ruckdeschel said. But, he said, he has heard mixed reactions from parents and others in the community. Some parents worry the new school will take the district’s best and brightest out of other schools and others want a better idea of what the curriculum is going to look like, he said.
“I basically say that we’re trying to meet the needs of all our students,” Ruckdeschel said.
The task force working on recommendations for the school has used community input to try to create the vision and mission for the school, said Nathan Franz, a member of the task force who is the district’s mathematics supervisor. “The parents and community members have expressed an interest in a non-traditional school that will allow for students to flourish academically and socio-emotionally,” Franz said.
To design Syracuse Latin school, Franz and other members of the task force examined the curriculum of other Latin schools throughout the nation and visited the Latin School of Chicago in December. “This is really starting from the ground up,” Franz said of Syracuse Latin. “It’s something that the district hasn’t tried.”
The next step in the process of opening Syracuse Latin, Franz said, is hiring a principal. “Work and knowledge of classical education is not necessarily required,” he said. “I believe the district is looking for a person with instructional leadership, a shared vision of teaching and learning and commitment to excellence.”
(Kristen Eskow is a junior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism.)