South Kitsap High School has been approved by the International Baccalaureate committee to introduce an International Baccalaureate (IB) program into its curriculum in the 2016-17 school year.
Advanced Placement classes will still be offered by the school, but students will also have the opportunity to earn an IB degree.
“South Kitsap High School is the only school in the West Sound region authorized for an IB diploma program,” assistant principal Casey Ogan said. “It’s just getting started, but it will be great.”
Ogan, along with other teachers and school board members, were instrumental in getting the program into South Kitsap High. In what is normally a two- to three-year process, the staff quickly acted to make sure they weren’t passed up for the opportunity.
“We had 10 months,” Ogan said. “They want schools researching but Dr. Reid was concerned someone else would jump in front of us if we didn’t apply this year.”
Before the IB school was authorized, South Kitsap High administrators submitted course outlines multiple times for every IB class offered.
South Kitsap had a site visitor from the IB committee to observe instructor teaching styles and an authorization team to give feedback before the was approved.
Two math classes, three science classes, one English class, one history class, four foreign languages classes and two art classes in film and music are to be offered.
There will be two different levels for the foreign language classes depending on when students start.
To earn a degree, students must take a class from all six sections and earn a total of at least 24 points during their IB exams.
“For me as a student, IB and high school was interchangeable,” South Kitsap’s IB coordinator Michelle Duchene said. “I moved here four or five years ago, and there was no IB on peninsula.
“When I heard they were going to try and start doing it, I immediately said, ‘Yes, I’m interested. What can I do?’ Casey said there will eventually be a coordinator position available. He kind of put that in my ear but when it did open I applied.”
Duchene’s job will be to keep the program running smoothly and help with the students culminating project, which centers on community and world mindedness.
“This is something that will challenge me inside and out,” Yue Yue Gunderson said.
IB classes aren’t solely about getting a degree that will enhance students’ college applications.
Certain universities, such as the University of Puget Sound and University of Oregon, have had years where they accepted every applicant with an IB degree. However, the program is designed to assist every student become prepared and be responsible for their next step.
Gunderson will be starting the program next year as a junior. She and her family have been working to kick-start the program at South Kitsap.
“It will help me be a well-rounded student and prepare me for college life and for my future and career,” she said. “I want to take full advantage of it.”
Duchene described Gunderson as one of her brightest students and said IB is perfect for her because she would “get bored in regular classes.”
But IB isn’t designated solely for advanced students. It is designed to connect with students as a whole and get them to realize how subject matter applies to “real life.” A class every IB student will take is called the Theory of Knowledge.
The purpose of this class is to demonstrate how every subject comes together across one platform to get students thinking about how their classes relate to life.
“IB schools create independent thinkers and researchers. It gets kids asking ‘why?’” school board member Rebecca Diehl said. Diehl has four sons, three of whom are still attending schools in South Kitsap.
“I love how kids can come in and see how algebra applies to real life. It’s stimulating, engaging and hands-on.”
IB programs will also eventually be introduced to Hidden Creek Elementary, Orchard Heights Elementary and Cedar Heights Middle School.
The IB program runs during the last two years of high school.
Although students may enter higher level math classes early on if applicable, they cannot begin testing until their junior year of high school.
“Currently we have 17 students who are candidates to receive an IB diploma when they graduate,” Ogan said.
“But we have more than that signed up for classes. For example, we have 28 signed up for biology because it looked like an interesting class.
“That’s cool. It’s where we want to be.”