This school year will be the first for iMiddle, formerly Owensboro Middle School South. Currently, construction on both the outside and inside of the building shows that the expected $13.2 million renovations are still a work in progress, but iMiddle Principal Mark Moore said most of the construction for phase one will be completed by fall break.
The renovations that iMiddle will see aren’t the only change taking place at the school this year. Rather than offer sixth grade only, as OMS South did last year, iMiddle will offer sixth, seventh and eighth grade to 300 students. The selection of students for iMiddle was done on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We’re going to be 300 instead of 900,” Moore said. “The big change is the way we teach and learn — project-based learning.”
Teachers at iMiddle will now be called facilitators and will take a different direction in the way they process learning and deliver their content.
“In the past, most people assess on academic content. We want to assess on that, and how well you apply it by taking it to the next step,” Moore said. “Yes, we know that you can put it on paper and take your tests and quizzes, but can you apply it?”
A five-pronged grading system will be used to determine grades for students at iMiddle. Half of a student’s grade will be based on knowledge and thinking, 15 percent will be based on agency, another 15 percent on collaboration, and 10 percent will be based on separate oral and written communication standards.
According to Moore, this system of grading makes a more well-rounded student in the end, one who’s better prepared for secondary education and adulthood thereafter. At Owensboro Innovation Academy, where these practices were first taught, the proof of the system showed up on the students’ standardized testing and ACT scores.
“They’ve all had higher standardized testing scores,” he said. “This goes into a deeper understanding and helps you retain it. It works.”
Most of the classes at iMiddle will take place on the south end of the building, and all of the current classrooms will be relocated from one side of the building to the other. A garden and courtyard will be used for two outdoor classrooms where students can learn the ins and outs of agriculture, while another space under construction will be used as a teacher workroom. Instead of teachers staying inside classrooms during planning periods, teachers will gather during those times in the same space, where they can bounce ideas off one another and not be alienated.
Classrooms will differ from OMS South as they will be divided by removable walls that allow students from different classes to collaborate on different projects.
“It was a very highly recommended by the New Tech Network that we do that,” Moore said. “If I have an English class and a social studies class, and we want them to do a project together, we can just throw that wall up and create a space big enough to do that.”
A cluster of former classrooms are under construction right now to form a new library and workspace for the students.
The first phase that will be completed will be a corner of the building dedicated to OPS’s STRIVE program, a middle-school-level alternative program for students. Moore said other renovations, such as the gymnasium, cafeteria, exterior of the building and media center will be completed in phases 2-4, but all students should be relocated to their new classroom spaces by fall break.