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Hall schools embark on international journey
First International Baccalaureate site visit set for next week
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Leslie Gresham, project manager of the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, talks about the JUSTGeorgia Coalition.

GAINESVILLE -- A two-person International Baccalaureate "authorization team" is poised to visit Johnson High School on Monday and Tuesday to see if the school is on track to start the highly recognized program full time next school year.

"I feel like we're well-prepared," said Amanda Griffin, a seventh-year business teacher who is coordinating the school's IB efforts.

Johnson, North Hall and West Hall high schools all are looking to start up the program next school year. IB teams are set to visit North Hall Nov. 26-27 and West Hall Nov. 29-30.

The Geneva-based IB's Diploma Programme is a two-year curriculum for high school juniors and seniors that enables them to earn up to a year of college credit while taking a rigorous and international-based curriculum.

The Hall County school system spent $4,500 per school to apply for entry into the program.

At Johnson, Candace Michael of San Antonio and Les Phillips of Port Moody, British Columbia, will meet with school officials, including principal Damon Gibbs, and teachers on Monday.

Also, they will tour the school for an hour and have "informal conversations" with students, teachers, administrators and staff, according to the itinerary.

Superintendent Will Schofield and the Hall County Board of Education are set to meet with Michael and Phillips from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m. Tuesday at the school.

"This is a special moment in the history of our school system," Schofield said.

In a reference to the federal accountability-focused No Child Left Behind Act, he added, "The fact that we stand on the verge of placing one of the finest programs on the globe in several of our high schools is what leaving no child behind should look like."

Also, on Tuesday, the IB team will meet prospective IB students and parents.

Kaitlyn Head, a Johnson sophomore, has been accepted in the IB program. She said she decided to pursue the program because "I wanted to get a better view of college."

Head, 15, an aspiring veterinarian, also is hoping the program will help her net some scholarship money.

Yen Bui, also a sophomore, said she is hoping to use the program to get into a top-flight college, where she hopes to major in medicine and education and minor in linguistics.

Griffin said that the IB teachers "have worked hard to revise their respective course outlines submitted in May."

The International Baccalaureate Organization of North America "invites experienced IB teachers to review schools' applications and feedback is then communicated to the respective schools," Griffin said.

"Before the site visit, schools must revise their application and course outlines based on the feedback."
A group from Johnson also organized an Oct. 3 visit to Norcross High School, which has the IB Diploma Programme.

The 30 students, two teachers and two parents who went to the school saw IB classes in action and spoke with IB students and teachers.

"I feel like we have really done our homework," Griffin said. "This has been a long, well-thought-out process."

IB will give official authorization, including recommendations for program adjustments, in March, Griffin said.

Until then, Johnson, North Hall and West Hall are IB Candidate Schools.