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IB program back at Chippewa

The International Baccalaureate program is back at Chippewa Secondary School just weeks after trustees first voted to cancel it.

Trustees revisited the issue Tuesday night and all but two voted to reinstate the program.

Earlier this month board chair Jay Aspin said the board was cancelling the IB program because at $900,000 over five years it was more expensive than other programs and he added it only produced six graduates this year.

But at the Tuesday meeting, Aspin said trustees didn’t have all the information when they made their earlier decision.

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Judy Smith is the former Diploma Coordinator of the International Baccalaureate program at Chippewa Secondary School.

She says when the board first decided to cancel the program teachers and parents were both disappointed and surprised by the move.

Smith says the surprise was the speed with which the trustees dealt with the issue and she adds “we didn’t realize it was on the table for cancellation”.

Smith agrees the program is costly but that’s because when it was first introduced, the teachers involved with it had to be trained to become qualified instructors of the program.

“But once everyone is accredited, they only need re-training every seven years,” Smith said.

“So the ongoing costs aren’t the same as the start-up costs.”

Smith was surprised that a price tag of $900,000 was attached to the program and believes the board added school bus transportation costs to arrive at that dollar amount.

She says if it did, then Smith believes this is unfair since school buses are already picking up other students who are not part of the IB program.

Smith says the data the board used when saying six students graduated this year is in fact several years old and would have been the first set of students who were in the program from the beginning and then graduated.

Smith retired in 2017 but before she left teaching she saw that the IB program had grown every year from its small start.

She says the program was now seeing more than 20 students enrol each year.

Smith says Chippewa’s IB program has also helped attract students from other boards in Nipissing District that normally would not have attended a Near North school.

Based on the provincial government’s education funding formula where school boards receive a certain amount of money for every student they have, Smith points out the IB program actually makes money for the board with the addition of those IB students.

Smith says students benefit from an IB program.

The program has students in accelerated classrooms where enriched English, Math and Sciences are taught.

“There’s more emphasis on critical thinking skills, writing skills and additional skills in math,” she said.

Smith says university professors have said repeatedly how impressed they are with the skills of IB students.

“They are impressed with their ability to prepare essays for university, annotate the essays correctly, provide logical, well-developed arguments to support their ideas and their research skills are solid,” Smith says.

Smith says some universities like Nipissing University, as well as Bishop University in Quebec and St. Mary’s in the Maritimes allow a graduating IB high school student direct entry to second year at university.

Smith says some students take advantage of this while others opt to enter first year even though they aren’t required to do so.

Smith says IB students are more likely to go on to post-graduate studies like pursuing a masters or doctorate degree.

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