By Kevin Kelley
Westlake City Schools Superintendent Dan Keenan is planning to launch an International Baccalaureate program at Westlake High School with the help of two other area school districts.
International Baccalaureate is an educational program established by a foundation based in Switzerland. The organization’s three programs – for primary, middle and high school levels – are designed to “develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world,” according to its website.
The high school IB program, known as the Diploma Program, focuses on six academic areas, from math to languages. At the end of the two-year program, students are required to write a 4,000-word extended essay.
Under the shared services partnership Keenan is pursuing, IB classes would be taught at the new Westlake High School, with students from partner districts in Avon Lake and Berea traveling to Westlake to take classes.
Implementing the IB Diploma Program by itself would cost the district about $200,000 annually for a program that would only serve an estimated 20 to 30 students, the superintendent said.
With the three districts working together, costs such as training and the salary of a program coordinator can be shared, Keenan said. Plus, the IB program can be offered to more interested students, he added.
The district has already applied for a $100,000 state grant to pay for a program coordinator and other expenses for the three districts, Keenan said. The plan is to go forward with the IB program even if the grant application is not approved, he noted.
The Westlake City Schools Board of Education approved the grant application, but has not yet voted on implementing the IB Diploma Program, Keenan said.
The Bay Village and Rocky River districts investigated the partnership, but are not joining at this time. Bay Superintendent Clint Keener said his high school’s focus is on Advanced Placement courses because the IB program would attract a limited number of students. Rocky River Superintendent Michael Shoaf said any future participation by his district is dependent on the passage of a November operation levy.
According to the IB organization’s website, certification of schools can be a “challenging” process that can take two to three years. Keenan said that students who will be sophomores this fall might be the first to be offered IB classes. However, it’s more likely next year’s freshmen will be the first, he added. It all depends on the speed of certification.
Westlake City Schools is currently in the “candidate” phase of IB’s Primary Years Program, Keenan noted.
The benefit of the IB Diploma Program, Keenan said, is its rigorous curriculum centered on a central theme. The program also expects students to meet international benchmarks, he added.
“The neat thing about the International Baccalaureate Program is that kids learn how to write a thesis,” the superintendent said. That’s good training for a student’s future educational endeavors in college and beyond, he said.