New IB program OK'd for Meade

School board's vote to expand should help meet demand, relieve crowding at Old Mill


The Anne Arundel County school board's unanimous decision this week to expand the International Baccalaureate program to Meade High School will relieve some of the crowding in an overcapacity program at Old Mill High School and eliminate the need for a lottery, school system officials say.

Two months after declining to expand the program that was championed by former Superintendent Eric J. Smith, board members agreed Wednesday to institute the IB program at Meade beginning in the fall of the 2006-2007 school year for ninth-graders who live in the Meade attendance area. The county's two other IB sites, Old Mill and Annapolis high schools, take students from all over the county.

Smith had recommended opening up the Meade IB program to students from outside the Meade attendance area, but school board members voted 6-2 against that plan in October, with only board members Paul G. Rudolph and Michael G. Leahy backing it. At that meeting, Rudolph alternatively proposed making the program for Meade students only, but the board rejected that as well. Some board members said at the time that they needed more information and a strategic plan for expanding the program throughout the county.

The board was presented Wednesday with a long-term implementation plan that includes offering the IB diploma program at four county high schools and introducing programs at four middle and four elementary schools.

Parents and others who had been asking for the program were pleased with the board's decision.

"Have we been a little slow in getting there? Maybe," board Vice President Tricia Johnson said.

Among those speaking in favor of the expansion Wednesday was a seventh-grader from Meade Middle School who told board members that she and her friends hoped they would be able to participate in the IB program when they enter ninth grade at Meade High School.

"This testimony cinches it in my mind," said board member Eugene Peterson, who, after the failed vote in October, suggested that the board consider looking at the program for Meade students only.

Smith, who introduced the IB program to the county schools, had told the board that if the program weren't expanded to Meade, a lottery might have to be held to accommodate the demand. Old Mill and Annapolis high schools were each to accommodate 100 students per grade. Annapolis High School enrolled 75 ninth-grade IB students this year, but Old Mill has been overcapacity with 152 students.

Applications for the IB program were due Dec. 1, and IB director Christine Amiss told the board that about 44 percent of the applications for the Old Mill program for next year came from students in the Meade attendance area - which includes pupils from Meade and MacArthur middle schools. The school system received 285 applications for the Old Mill program for next year, though Amiss said she didn't know how many of those students would be eligible and how many of them would accept a seat if one were offered.

Still, she said, offering the program at Meade "would significantly reduce the pressure on Old Mill," though the school still would need at least two portable classrooms to accommodate the IB students.

Of the 67 eighth-graders at Meade Middle School who are eligible to participate in IB next year, 64 of them applied.

To be eligible for the program, eighth-graders must be taking Algebra I and a world language, have a GPA of 3.0 or higher in the seventh grade and score in the proficient or advanced range in the reading and math portions of the Maryland State Assessments.

Even though the board has voted to offer IB at Meade next year, the school system still will have to submit an application to the International Baccalaureate Organization to become authorized to offer the program. In addition, the board will have to request an additional $200,000 in the budget for next school year.

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