SPRING HILL — Springstead High School entered the big leagues of academic achievement this week, gaining official status as an International Baccalaureate diploma school.
Hernando County School Board officials were over the moon Tuesday upon learning the school had received final acceptance of its application to join the rigorous, two-year program.
"This is a significant milestone, not just for Springstead High School but for all students in Hernando County," said coordinator Cliff Wagner.
More than 2,000 schools worldwide take part in the program, which is widely considered to be more challenging than taking a full slate of advanced placement classes. IB diploma candidates must take high-level courses in science, math, language and history; pass tough IB exams; write a 4,000-word research essay; and conduct 150 hours of community service.
Committing to climb that mountain of work was daunting, admitted sophomore Sasha Spalding.
"I thought I wasn't going to be able to do anything," she said. "My life was going to be consumed with studying, work and no sleep."
She is one of nearly 70 students who have been taking honors-level courses together at Springstead in anticipation of starting the program. Next fall 28 juniors from the class of 2011 will begin the required coursework, and around 80 eighth-graders from across the county have expressed interest in transferring to the school.
They're an ambitious group, Wagner said. All scored near the top of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and most earned A's and B's in middle school, though top grades are not an absolute requirement for admission to the new Hernando program. "What the program requires more than anything is self-motivation," he said. "The idea is to open ourselves to as many students in Hernando County as meet the minimum qualifications."
Sasha comes from a family of achievers; one older sibling is an accountant, while another is finishing her final year of medical school. She hopes to attend Stanford University and major in finance, and balances her studies with membership in the cross country, basketball and track teams.
"As long as I stayed on top of my work and studied, I got good grades," she added, saying that's what her family expects. "They won't let me do less than my best."
It wasn't easy for the district to join the program, either. Gaining acceptance took nearly four years of training, site visits and applications, Wagner said. And more inspections and evaluations will follow once the program is running. Springstead joins 61 other IB diploma schools in Florida, including Land O'Lakes and Gulf high schools in Pasco County.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.