Middle schools in the Prior Lake-Savage school district will phase out their existing advanced programs in favor of one track for students who need high-level classes, the school board decided Monday.

A committee of administrators, teachers and parents spent months reviewing advanced classes at Twin Oaks and Hidden Oaks middle schools. The two are located across the street from each other but have offered different programs since 2007. In addition to honors classes, Twin Oaks has an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, while Hidden Oaks offers Pre-AP, a program meant to prepare students for Advanced Placement classes.

The board's vote means the schools will not seek formal status as IB or Pre-AP sites. That move is due to rising costs and changing expectations of the organizations that certify the programs, said Jeff Holmberg, a district administrator who chaired the committee. The changes will also help align advanced classes taught at the two schools, he said.

"We're eliminating a lot of redundancies [created] by having IB, Pre-AP and honors," Holmberg said. "We're creating one advanced track for kids."

The changes won't all be made next year, partly because the district didn't have a plan ready when registration started for 2010-11, he said. The schools will still run Pre-AP or honors courses in English and math this fall. Twin Oaks will offer the IB program to incoming sixth-graders.

Administrators will develop and roll out a new advanced program over the next three years. Among other things, the plan will expand advanced classes to new subjects such as social studies, science and potentially elective courses, said Twin Oaks Principal Dan Edwards.

This fall, gifted and high-achieving students in sixth grade will also take science and social studies classes together.

But the plan has frustrated some parents, including Betsy Sandell, who served on the committee. When the group started meeting, Sandell said, she expected it to come up with a more detailed plan to replace any dropped programs.

Sandell said she's concerned about what advanced courses might look like down the road. "Parents like IB and Pre-AP because these are programs where there's specific training involved," she said.

Both schools ran into complications with the organizations behind IB and Pre-AP, Holmberg said.

Twin Oaks had been seeking certification as an IB school, but was told after a site visit last spring that the school had fallen short in eight measures. Some of the issues were easily fixable, Edwards said, but others -- such as giving teachers more time for collaborative planning -- would have required expensive changes.

The College Board, which runs Pre-AP trainings, was pushing Hidden Oaks to buy a new curriculum, even though the school likes the lessons it already has, said Principal Sasha Kuznetsov.

Both schools, which offer IB or Pre-AP classes only to a subset of students who apply, were under pressure to expand the programs to the entire student body, administrators said.

Teacher collaboration between buildings was also harder because the schools were offering different programs, Holmberg said.

Giving up the current models may not have been easy for everyone, he said. "There's the idea that we've been working on something for three years, and has this been a giant waste of time?" he asked. The answer to that question is no, he argued.

Principals said that teachers will still embed Pre-AP and IB strategies in their lessons and attend some trainings. The schools will also hang on to some old program values, such as community service and a global outlook.

"We have the foundation built [for] our own advanced track," Holmberg said.

Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016