TEMPLE TERRACE — The announcement went out in February from a new principal who is trying to make an impact: Greco Middle School wants to be an International Baccalaureate school.
The application process takes three years.
But along the way, district leaders hope to raise the stature of the D-rated school that loses many talented students to other options.
About 2,000 middle school students live in the Greco attendance zone in and around Temple Terrace.
But between 65 and 75 percent of those students go to magnet schools including Williams, an International Baccalaureate school six miles away; Ferrell and Franklin, the district's two single-gender middle schools; and charters Woodmont, Terrace Community and Village of Excellence.
District leaders hope Greco's attempted transition to IB will be well received by Temple Terrace families, many who already send their children to Riverhills IB elementary school and are looking ahead at King High School's IB program.
"It creates a really nice pathway," said Odalys Pritchard, one of the leaders of Hillsborough's Achievement Schools initiative, which includes Greco. "We want parents in Temple Terrace to know that we have a great middle school right here in our community, and let's have our kids go to Greco."
Unlike the district's other IB schools, Greco will not be a magnet, but will serve the local population.
Known as an elite curriculum because of the high-performing students it attracts in high school, IB works for students from all backgrounds and levels of preparation, district officials say. The philosophy emphasizes critical thinking, multidisciplinary lessons and global awareness among its students.
"They develop into global citizens with a greater awareness of the culture and world around them," Andrew Olson, who was named principal in November, said in a Feb. 20 tweet.
"The IB middle school program meets students right where they are. And everyone benefits from that global view of learning."
The district has tried a number of strategies to strengthen Greco, which now serves roughly 600 students and has some of the lowest average reading levels in the district.
A STEM program introduces students to careers in engineering. That program will continue, as will the school's agriculture program, Olson said.
In an effort to create closer ties to the city of Temple Terrace, the district is also expanding Greco's boundaries so that all Temple Terrace students will be zoned for the school. Under a new map that was shown to the School Board on Tuesday, children in the city's southeastern section between Temple Terrace Highway and Harney Road — who are now zoned for Jennings Middle — will be zoned for Greco, starting in the 2019-20 school year.
Eighth graders can finish the year at Jennings if they wish, and younger students who wish to attend Jennings can do so through the choice system.
Contact Marlene Sokol at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3356. Follow @marlenesokol.