Big changes are coming to these Manatee County schools. Here’s what we know

Four schools are just months away from transformational change, bringing new programs and opportunities to Manatee County students, teachers and families.

The principal of each school — Blackburn Elementary, Daughtrey Elementary, Manatee Elementary and Palm View K-8 — delivered brief updates at Tuesday’s school board workshop. Each plan will start in the upcoming school year and expand over time.

Daughtrey Elementary is bringing the first dual-language program to Manatee County, said Shelby Bench, the school principal. Starting with a group of 36 kindergarten students, a teacher will give lessons in English for half the day, while another teacher will give lessons in Spanish.

Of the nearly 735 students who recently attended Daughtrey, 52 percent were English-language learners, the principal said. Her school will add a grade level to the program each school year, finishing its roll-out within six years.

Daughtrey’s principal said she was inspired by the dozens of dual-language programs in Broward County Public Schools. The ultimate goal is to aid students who are struggling to learn at their grade level, helping them to meet or exceed their peers’ abilities in the future.

“When we introduced this, the parents were cheering,” Bench said.

Blackburn Elementary will soon become a Cambridge school, building a foundation for students who may transition to Buffalo Creek Middle School and Palmetto High School, which offer a continuation of the same program, said Latrina Singleton, the principal at Blackburn.

Cambridge Assessment International Education is a program offered in 10,000 schools throughout 160 countries. The end goal is for students to earn an Advanced International Certificate of Education, or AICE Diploma, by the end of high school.

The diploma often translates into college credits, a Bright Futures Scholarship and a firm work ethic. Blackburn’s principal said it would be the first Cambridge Primary in Manatee, Hillsborough and Sarasota counties.

“When they’re in high school, they are strong enough to compete with students — not regionally, not between our district, but globally,” Singleton said.

Manatee Elementary is transitioning to a performing arts and community partnership school, effectively juggling two projects at once. Principal Tami VanOverbeke said she was inspired by a visit to Edison Park Creative and Expressive Arts School in Fort Myers.

“It was nice to see kids in the hallways — elementary kids — carrying instruments, carrying tap shoes and just the camaraderie and the success around not just academics,” she said.

The school formed an arts committee that includes parents, staff and school board member Charlie Kennedy. They decided to focus on visual and performing arts, taking advantage of the school’s existing auditorium, and to continue planning in the upcoming school year.

VanOverbeke said her campus is also implementing the Community Partnership Schools model, offered by the University of Central Florida. The model requires local partnerships and a long-term commitment, and it underscores family engagement, after-school programs and student health care.

Palm View Elementary is starting its transition to a K-8 school in the upcoming year. At the same time, it’s rolling out a new program called Woz Pathways, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics program started by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

While other school districts use a portion of the program, Palm View is the first school in Florida and the nation to implement five areas of study at one time. They include engineering design, coding, drones, cybersecurity and mobile development.

The school will later introduce courses in data science, animation and artificial intelligence.

Principal Kaththea Johnson said her goal is to prepare students for vacant jobs throughout the country, and for careers that won’t exist for several years.

“There’s not enough students for these jobs yet, because they don’t have these vocational skills that are needed for these futuristic jobs,” she said.