The Gainesville school system is looking at options to expand its International Baccalaureate program up through the high school level.
“Board members have heard at business and Chamber of Commerce events that the IB program is a feature that attracts business and industry, particularly global companies,” said Superintendent Merrianne Dyer.
Currently, Fair Street School is the IB program in the Gainesville system. Diploma programs are offered at North Hall, West Hall and Johnson high schools in the Hall school system.
“Our board would like to study the middle years program, which is a whole-school program for grades 6-10,” Dyer said. “It has a direct impact on every middle (school student) and high school student in grades 9 and 10.
“This would also give the Fair Street students who leave elementary school ... an opportunity to continue the program,” she added.
The IB program was initially developed in the 1960s. It was developed at an international level, much like the Advanced Placement courses are developed domestically by the College Board. The IB program encompasses four different programs, with Fair Street participating in the primary years program, designed for children up to age 12.
The middle years program continues that framework for students up to age 16, where it is then split into either a diploma program or a career-related certificate for high school juniors and seniors.
Currently, Gainesville is simply gathering information about how to successfully implement the IB program into the upper grade levels. Board Vice Chairwoman Delores Diaz is part of that charge.
“I support IB because it’s a rigorous program that has a global perspective,” she said. “Students who come through the International Baccalaureate program learn not only the basic core knowledge, (but) it goes beyond that to a deeper understanding of what they’re learning because all of the subjects are related to each other.”
It’s about creating global citizens, she explained, with an emphasis not only on learning subject matter but about different world cultures.
To begin the process, teachers and counselors at Wood’s Mill Academy, Gainesville Middle and Gainesville High will research the IB programs, as well as observe other programs in the state like those in Marietta. They will be visiting some schools in January, and then an IB introductory workshop at some point.
Renee Morris, an English language arts teacher at Wood’s Mill Academy, is one of those researching the possibilities of an IB program.
“I just see it as a very positive direction,” she said. “I love the (Advanced Placement) program at the high school, and I respect it, but this is another option.”
She said that her middle school students now are excited about the possibility of extending the IB program, especially since they may get to reap the benefits if its implemented within the next few years.
“I’m just excited to be a part of it,” she said. “I think it’s a great direction that we’re going in.”