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IB courses scheduled to debut in 2008

Springstead High School will host the county's first International Baccalaureate program in the 2008-2009 school year.

The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday gave superintendent Wendy L. Tellone unanimous direction to complete an intent to apply for the IB program before the Sept. 15 deadline.

The rigorous IB curriculum requires students to connect six major study areas, produce independent research, participate in community services and create several projects. If students complete this coursework and examinations, they receive college credit and an IB diploma, which is highly esteemed at many universities around the world. The total estimated three-year budget to begin the program is $121,208.

"We need to challenge the student population that will benefit from this program," Tellone said.

The $4,300 intent to apply will begin a roughly yearlong process in which the International Baccalaureate Organization will provide consultation to the district.

After consultation, the district will decide if it wants to pursue the IB program by submitting a $4,500 application.

The application process also takes about one year. During this time Springstead High will acquire textbooks, media resources, IB curriculum and teacher training. Eighth-grade students also begin applying during this time for the pre-IB classes they will take as freshmen and sophomores.

"We'll be able to decide on almost open admissions or very stringent admissions," said School Board Chairman Jim Malcolm. "That makes it become a political issue because there are parents that really want their kids in this program."

Although the IB program is for upperclassmen, it begins with prerequisite work in ninth and 10th grade. The program is proposed to begin with a 50- to 75-student freshman class in the 2008-2009 school year. The school will add another grade each year until it is filled.

The School Board and superintendent unanimously agreed that Springstead High should host the program because it has the fundamental backbone to support it.

"The teachers there are passionate about this type of program," Tellone said. "They are ready to move on to this. I just don't think other schools have the basis for it yet."

Several Springstead faculty members and administrators were at the workshop Tuesday to show their support for the program and its implementation.

"We have been preparing for this moment for the last eight to 10 years," said Susan Duval, principal of the Spring Hill school. "We have 16 advanced placement courses that teachers have gone through the training for. It's a logical sequence. This is a piece of the puzzle of academic excellence."

The School Board has been discussing the IB program since last May, when it was brought to the table during discussions about advanced placement courses. A little more than a month ago, two School Board members and several district administrators took a bus trip to Palm Harbor University High School in Pinellas County to see a working IB program in action. Afterward, all the visitors were intent on bringing it back to Hernando.

Several board members showed interest in future expansion of the program to other primary and secondary schools.

"In the future, I'd like to see this program on both sides of the county," said board member Sandra Nicholson.

The IB program has middle and elementary school counterparts that the board might discuss later.

"We could see how we're going with the IB program," said board member Robert Wiggins. "And then see about adding these other programs."