Williams Elementary prepares for IB PYP

Williams Elementary principal Anyana Stokes (center) and her staff are preparing to become the Alachua County School District's first IB Primary Years Programme candidate school.
Williams Elementary School principal Anyana Stokes (center) and her staff are preparing to become the Alachua County School District's first IB Primary Years Programme candidate school.
Courtesy of ACPS

Last week, Alachua County Public Schools announced that the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) approved an application for Joseph Williams Elementary to become the district’s first IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) candidate school. 

The school is to begin implementing the program starting this fall semester, and training has already begun to prepare. According to an ACPS social media announcement, Williams and the district will work with IBO to make the school a “fully-authorized” PYP school. 

Williams will still teach the same curriculum as the rest of the school district, according to principal Anyana Stokes. The difference will be in the teaching approach, which Stokes said will have a more international, inquiry-based focus. 

Become A Member

Mainstreet does not have a paywall, but pavement-pounding journalism is not free. Join your neighbors who make this vital work possible.

“I think all kids can ask questions, and want to ask questions,” Stokes said in a phone interview. “And I think this approach to learning encourages that. So I’m looking forward to the collaboration that’ll take place between the students, and between the teachers, and between us and the district.” 

The IB program will have interdisciplinary themes that all content areas will work through together. Teachers in science, band, math and other subjects will take these themes, such as “who we are,” and apply them to their subject areas. 

As part of its wider international focus, the IB PYP program will also introduce Spanish language instruction to all students on campus. 

In early talks about bringing an IB PYP program to Alachua County, the program was to be implemented at Prairie View. In late January, ACPS announced the program would open at Williams in the fall. 

Several parents turned up at the next regular meeting of the School Board of Alachua County, speaking for and against the program. 

Most of those opposed were parents of students in Williams’ current magnet program for high-achieving students, which will be dissolved for the IB PYP. The concerned parents said though IB programs are known for building strong academics, the teachers would not be able to maintain the same level of rigor across all levels of students. 

Several parents said they would leave and one, Lina Cui, said the parents conducted a survey about what they would do if the IB program started up at Williams. Out of 81 magnet program families that responded, only four said they would stay. 

Stokes said the school has held informational sessions for parents, and will hold another over the summer. The informational sessions have mainly focused on basic information about what the IB PYP program is. 

Not many families have officially withdrawn from Williams, Stokes said, but she also noted there are two more months until school starts, so that could change. She said parents were more concerned when the program was first announced, and feedback from zoned students’ families has been “very positive.” 

Stokes said the school has had “family meetings” about the new program, and everyone from teachers to clerical workers to custodians will be important to its successful implementation. 

“I think a willingness and openness to change will be the most important pieces coming in,” Stokes said. 

Students anywhere in the county can apply to attend Williams through the district’s magnet application process. Magnet applications are now considered late applications, but there are seats left in several grades, according to Williams’ website. 

More information, and the application, are available at www.sbac.edu/magnet. Late applications must be received by June 30 in order to be considered. 

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bill Whitten

I have a very positive view on IB programs when they are done well. This one raises some questions. What additional resources are being routed to Williams to fund IB? Why choose to kill off the HA magnet to start IB, rather than have them at separate schools? Was one magnet cannibalized to fund the other? I’m curious about faculty – how many HA teachers choose to leave and the experience levels of the IB (a couple of summer inservices isn’t enough training).

Trying to teach the “same curriculum” but in an international inquiry-based manner will fascinating in a state moving rapidly in the opposite direction. Enslaved people learned valuable life skills?

I’ll hope for success, but won’t be surprised if it turns out to be style over substance.


Not all teachers are up to such a program. I hope the cream of the crop are put inplace. Teaching to the lowest denominator appears to be all too common in governemnt schools. Let’s hope William will expect quality, expect high standards and pull the students up.

Elizabeth Jenkins

Is anyone concerned about putting such young children into an environmentally toxic situation? I am and I became aware after reading an investigative report in THE INTERCEPT. There is plenty more I might say after retiring from the state of Florida public school system, teaching abroad in Wellington, New Zealand, and also in two private schools in Clay County.