Garfield Re-2 school board approves preliminary budget for International Baccalaureate program
RIFLE, Colorado – If all goes according to plan, Garfield Re-2 students will soon have the opportunity to participate in a unique and challenging educational program. The Garfield Re-2 school board approved a preliminary budget to pursue bringing the elite International Baccalaureate program to Rifle High School.
The board’s approval marked the end of a long journey to commit to the program, and the beginning of another to make the dream a reality. Rifle High School Assistant Principal Damon Wells said discussion of the International Baccalaureate, or IB, program began about four years ago.
“It wasn’t something that we stumbled upon recently. Slowly and steadily the casual conversations grew more and more serious until it grew into a critical mass,” said Wells.
He explained that as the RHS staff researched IB, it learned that the program could positively impact the school both academically and culturally. But the International Baccalaureate program requirements have created some challenges for the RHS staff as well.
“The IB program in-and-of its self is very flexible,” said Wells. “Which on the surface seems like a good thing, but it requires you to structure a program based upon your needs. So, as a staff, we have had wonderful, constant conversations about curriculum, teaching, and learning.”
According to the IB website (www.ibo.org) the International Baccalaureate program offers high quality programs of international education to a worldwide community of schools. There are more than 817,000 IB students at 2,944 schools in 139 countries. International Baccalaureate is broken down into a primary years (3-12), middle years (11-16) and diploma (16 – 19) programs. At the moment, Garfield Re-2 will be pursuing only the junior/senior or diploma IB program. IB programs attempt to educate the whole student, emphasizing intellectual, personal, emotional and social growth.
But it’s not just a program for the best and the brightest, emphasized Wells.
“Every single thing that we have learned tells us that it is for many students. While the rigorous academic nature of the program can certainly serve gifted students, other self-disciplined and motivated students can be successful in the program if they can demonstrate a solid work ethic and good academic history. IB also really promotes involvement in the school community and in the community as a whole. Participation in extracurricular activities, such as involvement in school productions, sports, or volunteer service is required to earn the IB diploma.”
Rifle High School staff members have spent many months traveling to different IB schools, e-mailing IB personnel around the world and speaking to people nationwide who began IB programs in their schools. The process to become an official IB school takes approximately two years and two lengthy applications.
At the May 11 meeting, the school board approved a preliminary budget to pay for teacher training and other costs associated with the IB program. Despite the fact that they have not been officially accepted into the IB family, preparation is already occurring for the first IB classes.
“We have already been designing the 11th and 12th grade classes [for 2012-13],” explained Wells.
Students that are interested in the possibility of IB will apply to enter RHS’s new Honors Academy, classes that will give students the foundation they will need if they enter the full-fledged IB program as juniors.
But Wells is quick to point out that both the Honors Academy and the IB classes will benefit the whole school.
“Because we are not the biggest school, teachers may be teaching only one or two honors or IB classes. But the training they receive will impact the rest of their classes and therefore a much greater student population. Really, every kid will truly benefit from the program.”
The first potential IB classes would be offered in the 2012-13 school year, and this year’s eighth-graders would be the first to participate. Wells said that students considering participating in IB should apply for acceptance in the RHS Honors Academy first and give the program a shot. Students can apply by obtaining an application in the main office at Rifle High School, Riverside Middle School or Rifle Middle School. Completed applications are due back to RHS by June 1.
“We understand that it is a leap of faith for kids and their parents at this point,” said Wells. “If students give it a shot and it doesn’t work out for an individual kid, we can always help them transition back to a traditional schedule, but I would hate to see a student get turned away as a junior because they were a little afraid coming into ninth grade and didn’t take the necessary classes.”
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