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Walsh, Southern Tier Catholic prepare for new school year: School continues application for MYP

Tue, Sep 5th 2017 10:00 am

By TOM DINKI, Olean Times Herald

OLEAN — Archbishop Walsh Academy and Southern Tier Catholic School plan to offer another year of what officials call a rigorous and intimate education with students heading back to school Tuesday.

The private, K-12 school is currently a candidate for the Middle Years Programme through International Baccalaureate. The program for grades 5 through 10 serves as a precursor for the IB Diploma Programme that Walsh 11th and 12th graders are currently offered.

Walsh and Southern Tier Catholic students will receive an MYP education on a trial basis, as they did last year. Last fall school officials began the application process, which typically takes about two and a half years, and are currently working their way through the unit design process. The main aspects of the MYP curriculum are research, writing, team-learning and public presentations.

"There's a certain nomenclature you've got to use as it pertains to the major subject areas and there are eight of them," said Thomas Manko, Walsh and Southern Tier Catholic president and principal. "That means we'll be using the same nomenclature and have the same level of expectations for rigorous student performance at a very high level. That also obligates us to make sure our students have the tools."

One of the tools will be new Labdisc Portable STEM Labs, which are portable self-contained wireless units that contain multiple sensors for data collection. The discs will allow students to better gather, collect and upload data from their science classes and projects for the school's recently revived science fair.  

"This is another way to enhance our STEM initiatives by giving the students the technological hardware and software," Manko said. "We'll continue to receive the usual volcano science project that erupts, but we're hoping if we use more of the STEM material and support material like the lab discs that the science projects, at least at the upper level, will be more scientific."

School officials are also taking steps to prepare its elementary students for the IB curriculum. While there are currently no plans to apply for IB's Primary Years Programme, officials did develop a curriculum for its kindergarten through fourth-grade students that has preparing for MYP in mind.

"So while we're not a PYP and we're not going to apply for that, we're still thinking in that direction, getting kids ready for the MYP," Manko said.

Mary Beth Garvin, Walsh and Southern Tier Catholic director of admissions and student life, said prospective students and families take interest in the fact the school offers diplomas through IB, which is an educational foundation based out of Switzerland that has 4,781 schools worldwide offering its programs.

Garvin said families often tell her they've sought out Walsh and Southern Tier Catholic as an "alternative" because they feel their child is not as successful as they could be at their current school.

"They might feel like they're falling behind or slipping through the cracks," she said. "They want them to be at a smaller, intimate atmosphere where they get more attention."

Walsh will also once again be home to several foreign exchange students this year. Four high school students, who come from Germany, Denmark and Austria, will stay with Walsh families and attend the school, after six exchange students stayed last year. Walsh hosts the students through foreign exchange organization Youth for Understanding.

"That enriches our high school," said Garvin, adding the school also has a religious diversity with Catholics only making up half of the student body. "It brings that international feel that's part of IB. We want our students to not just experience culture and life in Cattaraugus County, but outside of that and even outside of our country,"


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