New Bartlett Ninth Grade Academy opens doors to 600 students

Red and blue panther pride has consumed the halls of the once green-and-gold-dominated Shadowlawn Middle School as Bartlett Ninth Grade Academy opened its doors in Arlington this week to nearly 600 students that will advance to 10th through 12th grades at Bartlett High School starting next year.
"Our goal this year is to provide an additional level of support in addition to the rigor of high school course work," says John McDonald, Bartlett Ninth Grade Academy principal, who served as Shadowlawn principal for the previous eight years and Elmore Park Elementary assistant principal for the eight years prior to that.
He points out that ninth grade often has the highest nonpromotion rate over any other grade level K through 12, and kids who fail the ninth grade have a 70 percent higher chance of not graduating high school at all.
"Over the last 15 to 20 years there has been a national trend, which has been mirrored here in Shelby County and in the Bartlett communities, toward ninth grade academies," says McDonald, who expects academy students will be able to better assimilate into a high school setting with more maturity and better sense of their own identities.
Cosmetic work was completed on the academy buildings this summer to give the property more of a high school look and feel. Fleming Architects donated planning services, and Home Depot, The Plant Place and The Bartlett Nursery also pitched in donated materials.
The academy will probably only be located at the current site for three to five years before a new freshman academy building will be built on the Bartlett High School campus, and the current academy site will likely revert back to a middle school.
McDonald will lead a first semester faculty of 32 teachers, and more could be brought on board if student numbers rise significantly in the first weeks of school.
Shadowlawn originally opened in 1959 and underwent many changes (including over the years, ranging from an elementary school to a middle school.
By Michael Waddell
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