Hopkins appears on the way to transforming its junior highs into International Baccalaureate schools.
While the School Board didn’t vote on the idea Thursday, most of the directors praised the program—including Irma McIntosh Coleman, one of two directors who voted against the idea in March 2012.
“I was one of those naysayers. … I really did not think that I could sit back, look and think that I could support that,” McIntosh Coleman told the teachers presenting the proposal. “But the more I look and hear you, we realize the impact of people like you in our buildings and our classrooms that truly make that difference.”
IB’s Middle Years Programme provides an enhanced curriculum for grades six through 10, although Hopkins would only offer Middle Years at its junior highs. Started in Geneva, Switzerland, the program emphasizes “global mindedness” and a broad curriculum with eight components—including requirements for all students to take arts courses, physical education and a second language.
The 2012-13 school year has been an exploratory year in which the district has investigated whether IB could work with junior high schedules and how staff and parents feel about it.
While the existing junior high schedule would not mesh with the program, district models determined that there are three options that could work, said Nik Lightfoot, the district’s director of administrative services. The recommended option is a 16-credit, alternative-day block schedule.
Although some teachers were skeptical in the beginning, there was overwhelming excitement by the end of the process, said the two lead teachers in the process, North Junior High language arts teacher Angela Wilcox and West Junior High science teacher Todd Roudabush.
And most of the more than 100 parents who attended informational sessions were very interested and excited, West Junior High Principal Shirley Gregoire said. She added that three parents even told her their children would stay in Hopkins if the district moves forward with IB.
The push to encourage students to stay in the district was a recurring theme of the night. At the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, the district announced enrollment had decreased by 81 students since Oct. 1—a $500,000 hit to the district if those numbers carry through to next year.
A 2011 survey found that support for an IB program ranged from 70 percent to 82 percent. Notably, support was highest among Hopkins parents who open enroll their children out of Hopkins schools. It was lowest among parents who live in the district and send their kids to Hopkins schools.
The $307,500 annual cost of the program was a concern—similar to how costs were a concern during discussion that same night on elementary Spanish instruction. Director Wendy Donovan, who voted against pursuing IB in March 2012, asked whether the junior high could make it work if they didn’t receive any money.
“Instead of adding, we need to reconfigure,” she said. “There’s not a lot of new dollars.”
Gregoire said it would be a challenge to do without increased funding.
Yet IB received far less criticism than the elementary Spanish proposal—and Gregoire, Roudabush and Wilcox were unabashedly enthusiastic.
The board will next take a preliminary vote at its March 21 budget meeting on whether to become an IB program—followed by a final vote in May. If the board does decide to pursue IB, the district will petition International Baccalaureate for approval. If that happens, the junior highs would become IB schools in the 2014-15 school year.