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Gainesville schools continue to review global studies program

POSTED: January 20, 2014 11:57 p.m.

Gainesville education leaders have opted to spend extra time studying a new international program rather than begin classes next school year.

It was proposed a portion of the Academy at Wood’s Mill building, 715 Wood’s Mill Road, should house an International Baccalaureate middle-grades program for the 2014-15 year, but instead a group of middle and high school teachers will continue studying the option.

“We want to continue the success of the blended learning and flexible hours options at Wood’s Mill, and expand the partnership with Lanier Tech,” Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said. “Until we study more about the IB Middle Grades program, we are unclear as to how and where it might fit our school system.”

The International Baccalaureate program is a curriculum-based learning method, with the goal of developing “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” according to the website, www.ibo.org.

The nonprofit educational foundation oversees high school diploma and career-related certificate programs, building on primary and middle grades programs. Students are still held to state learning standards, but classes are taught from a global perspective.

Fair Street School has been an International Baccalaureate school for 10 years, but the elementary students have nowhere in the city school system to continue once they leave fifth grade.

“Right now we’re just truly in a study phase,” said Sarah Bell, director of academic programs and standards for Gainesville. “We’ve begun to research the IB program, but I think that not having the pressure of putting a program in place next year will allow us to really take our time and investigate deeply.

“Of course, it may be after a year of study that we decide that we want to do something else,” she said. “So that is kind of the nice part, again, of having that leeway.”

What may not change is the decision to no longer have two separate high schools and middle schools.

Wood’s Mill Academy offers a nontraditional, flexible learning environment for both high school and middle school students who benefit more from online classes, or from having an evening schedule.

They’re both considered separate schools by the state, but a change in student coding would report all test scores under either Gainesville High or Gainesville Middle.

Wood’s Mill became its own high school in 2010, and the middle school program was added this school year.

Dyer has said in the past that placing students under one school code would allow them more extracurricular options, particularly in athletics for the high school students.

“If the decision is made to ‘close’ the school code and include it as a program code, rather than a school code, then as of July 1, we would do so,” she said, comparing it to Hall County’s Da Vinci Academy, which is not a separate school but rather a program of South Hall Middle School.

“What happens at the school itself does not change,” she said. “It is the accountability that would change.”

School board members first considered the issue in November 2013, but not a lot has been discussed since.

Dyer said it will be addressed at the Feb. 3 work session of the board.

“There are so many moving pieces to this puzzle. We have to really sit down and figure it out,” board Vice Chairwoman Delores Diaz said.

“We have to decide how we’re going to use that facility, what the best use of it will be and how the building is going to be classified — whether it will be brought in as part of the high school and middle school, or whether it will remain a separate school altogether.”


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