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ABC School opens strong

With a handful of new teachers, maximum enrollment and standardized test results that stayed largely steady during what was a down year throughout the
state, the Apalachicola Bay Charter School opened the school year with the wind
at its back.

Now if it can just keep COVID-19 from wafting into nostrils.

Quarantine requirements have sidelined a few of the students
and staff, including principal Chimene Johnson, who is weathering the necessary
two-week storm out of her home, checking in with the same sort of online tools
that marked so much of the 2020-21 school year.

“Following CDC guidelines, students are encouraged to social
distance in our hallways and classrooms when possible,” she said. “Many
students and staff are wearing masks when social distancing isn’t possible. Our
classes still have the option of eating meals in their classroom, which reduces
the number of students eating in the cafeteria.”

Johnson said the start of school went well, as enrollment
levels of about 340 pressed the allowed maximum.

“The first week of school was outstanding,” she said. “Our
students and staff were so happy to return and be together face-to-face.

“We had a wonderful turnout for our orientation where
parents and students were able to visit classrooms and meet teachers. The first
week went smoothly and students settled into classroom routines,” Johnson said.

Among the changes at the school are two new teachers for the
first grade. Emily Gay is new to the school, and Heather Polous, who was at the
school last year, now teaches at that grade level.

Middle school science is in the hands of new teacher Ashley
Moore, while newcomer Michelle Norman handles middle school English and Language

Merrill Livingston, who had been the director at the
Apalachicola Center for History, Culture and the Arts, has decided to enter
into the teaching ranks by teaching art at ABC School.

Further good news is that the school’s Florida Standards
Assessment results from last spring for the most part bucked a state trend that
saw a decline in scores during a year where many students were affected by the coronavirus

In English and Language Arts, 61 percent of third graders
were at or above proficiency, seven percentage points better than state
average, while 56 percent of fourth graders achieved this, four percentage
points above state average.

With 49 percent of fifth graders at or exceeding proficiency,
the numbers were five percentage points below state average, and that gap
continued among sixth graders, when the ABC School’s 34 percent at proficiency,
18 percentage points below state average, was an uncommon dip at the school.

That downward trend continued with seventh and eighth
graders, which were both at 44 percent proficiency or better, still about a
half-dozen percentage points below the state average.

In mathematics, all but the sixth-grade class were well
ahead of state averages, with third graders at 70 percent proficiency, 19 points
better than their cohorts across Florida.

Fourth and fifth graders, both at 66 percent proficiency or better,
were roughly 14 percentage points higher than the state as a whole; and seventh
graders were at 60 percent proficiency, 16 percentage points better than their
fellow students across the state.

But, in the case of the sixth graders, there was a drastic
decline over the previous five years, with 32 percent at proficiency or better,
which is 13 percentage points worse than the state as a whole.

In Algebra, which is taught to eighth graders, the numbers
were also well below the results of the last five years, with a dip of 12 percentage
points in proficiency when compared to 2019 numbers, and well below the high
70s and 80s percentile of the three years before that. It also was 5 percentage
points below the state average for proficiency.

Fifth grade science was a particularly bright spot, with 60
percent at proficiency, the second highest showing since 2016, and a solid 13
percentage points above the state average.

Eighth grade science was not as
outstanding, with 42 percent at proficiency levels, just three percentage points
below state average but 14 percentage points far below the showing two years
ago, and well below the high 60s and 70s percentiles of the three years before

In the case of the exams given at the end of the course in
Civics, a class taken by seventh graders, the showing at 79 percent was three percentage
points below two years ago, but still on par or better than the three years
before that, and 15 percentage points better than the state average.

“I was pleased with FSA results, with the loss of learning
in 2020 and the continuous quarantines of 2021,” Johnson said. “Teachers in
2021 provided direct instruction and any additional time
available provided remediation and intervention to close the learning gap.”

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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