The Shawnee Mission School District has decided to retain its International Baccalaureate program, a college-preparation degree program that had been considered for elimination.
The school board on Monday approved the curriculum that students in the district’s elementary, middle and high schools will take during the school year beginning next fall.
The high school curriculum — reviewed by a team of principals, teachers and other experts — will continue to include the International Baccalaureate, or IB, program.
Offered in only a handful of Kansas high schools, including three in the Shawnee Mission district, IB emulates high-level college work. The program’s supporters have said it better prepares students for college coursework and is highly valued by many colleges when considering applicants.
However, the program has suffered from a lack of enrollment. Only 185 high school students went through IB in the 2015-2016 school year, which prompted the district last year to say it was looking at cutting the program.
That prompted dozens of students and parents to plead with the board a year ago to give the program another chance with some parents saying the IB program is what encouraged them to move into the district.
Ed Streich, the district’s chief academic officer, said on Monday that the curriculum reviewers recognized the potential for the program to aid college preparation but agreed that the district needed to do a better job at letting students and parents know the program was available and its potential to help students preparing for higher education.
Besides better promotion, he said the district plans to offer IB certificates as well as full IB diplomas at its high schools to give more students the option to accept the academically demanding courseload and still pursue elective classes.
“If a student wants to be in band, if a student wants to be in debate,” he said, “with those courses, an IB diploma requires those students to make choices, and many times they will not participate.”
In other business:
▪ The board approved a new calendar for the 2017-2018 school year that increases the number of days during which students attend classes by eliminating some teacher work days and shrinks the number of “early dismissal” days.
The school year will now include 178 student days, up from 175 this year. The number of partial school days will decline from 11 to seven. In total, the number of weeks when students attend class all five days will increase from 21 to 26.
▪ Superintendent Jim Hinson said the district is already hearing about the potential for cuts to state education funding as the Legislature looks for a way to plug a projected $342 million shortfall in the current state budget.
He said while specifics are still unknown an early suggestion is that the district could face a loss of between $9 million and $11 million in state dollars between now and June 30.
▪ A new logo for the district was unveiled. It features a five-pointed star made up of the colors of the district’s five high schools surrounding a central dark blue pentagon representing the district itself.
David Twiddy: email@example.com