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BENTONVILLE -- A review of enrollment and financial data from the International Baccalaureate program prompted questions from School Board members Monday about whether the program is worth continuing.

Bentonville High School is one of four public high schools in Arkansas that offer the International Baccalaureate diploma program. Classes in this program are taken by junior and seniors and are touted as being similar to what students will find when they get to college. Some colleges and universities award students postsecondary credit for completing program classes.

Elementary school gets a name

Evening Star will be the name of the Bentonville School District’s 12th elementary school, the School Board decided Monday. The school at 9649 W. Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers is scheduled to open in August.

The board solicited name suggestions from the community and narrowed a list of a few dozen suggestions to four on Oct. 1. Evening Star refers to the name of a one-room school house that once stood less than a quarter of a mile from the elementary school under construction, according to Superintendent Debbie Jones. That school was eventually consolidated with the Bentonville School District. Evening Star Road is located about a mile south of the new school’s site.

Source: Staff report

Seventeen Bentonville seniors earned an International Baccalaureate diploma last school year, an all-time high since the School District adopted the program in 2007, according to Derek Miller, the district's program coordinator.

Bentonville allows students to take one or more International Baccalaureate classes without enrolling in the diploma program. The district had 409 enrollments in those classes by 237 individual students during the 2017-18 school year, Miller said.

Operating and staffing expenses associated with the program equaled $287,227 last school year, he said.

"So is this cost-efficient?" asked Joe Quinn, a board member.

"I believe it is worth the cost," said Debbie Jones, the district's superintendent. "We need to continue to support rigorous study, whether that be [Advanced Placement] classes, whether that be IB, or whether that be our Ignite program."

Travis Riggs, board president, said he's been patient with International Baccalaureate over the last decade. He acknowledged enrollment numbers have improved, but noted less than 1 percent of the district's high schoolers are enrolled in the diploma program.

"I really struggle with that," Riggs said.

Jones said it's an option the district needs to provide to compete with other nearby options for high school students, including the Thaden School and Haas Hall Academy.

Quinn noted the district did away with its nontraditional calendar at two of its elementary schools a few years ago, in part because of efficiency arguments and the notion those schools served a small number of students.

"I don't think that's a fair comparison," board member Brent Leas said in response to Quinn's comment.

Leas asked if an International Baccalaureate student in the audience at Monday's meeting could be allowed to address the board about her experience in the program, but Riggs declined the request, saying he wasn't comfortable setting a precedent of pulling people from the audience.

Greg Puckett, an assistant principal at Bentonville High, said International Baccalaureate students are passionate about the program. It offers a theater course that Advanced Placement does not, which is great for students seeking a college-level experience in the fine arts, he said.

Riggs said he knows the program is beneficial, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the wisest use of the district's money.

"I think we're looking for a more comprehensive review of this program to help us make a decision," he said.

It's unclear when the board will take up the subject again.

One of the points of Monday's presentation was to follow up on a concern the board had that West High School students' access to the program is equal to that of Bentonville High School students.

West High School students who wish to pursue an International Baccalaureate diploma may transfer to Bentonville High for that purpose. This school year, eight of the 35 juniors and seniors in the program are from West High, Puckett said.

Puckett praised Miller for his work in providing information to West High students and their parents about the program, as well as to families at the junior high school level.

NW News on 10/23/2018

Print Headline: Bentonville's International Baccalaureate program gets another look

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