By Terry Dean
Oak Park Elementary School District 97 is exploring whether to participate in the International Baccalaureate Program, an educational model that looks to create a rigorous learning environment for students not only in core subjects but also physical education, personal growth and civic involvement.
The program focuses on high school and grade schools. The program is a long way away from being fully implemented in D97 but the school board and administration are fully behind it. The district will look to implement it in the middle schools, but school officials don't see that happening until well after this upcoming school year.
IB is not only a program but an organization. The nonprofit, education foundation has been around since 1968 and currently works with more than 3,000 schools worldwide, according to the organization's website. The program, which will require board approval, won't change the district's core mission of educating the "whole child" but will enhance that effort, said D97 school board President Peter Barber.
The board discussed the program at its June 26 regular meeting. The Oak Park Community Foundation has pledged $40,000 to the district for the program, says D97 Supt. Albert Roberts. This upcoming school year will entail planning and professional development with staff around the program, Roberts said.
The district expects it to be fully implemented in the 2015-16 school year.
As to the "rigorous" aspect to the program, Roberts insists that doesn't mean piling on more work for students and teachers. The program, he noted, is as much a philosophy of creating a better learning environment for students.
Barber said co-curriculars such as CAST and BRAVO will not be de-emphasized or altered under IB. School board member Denise Sacks said the district will continue to have the after school activities and other programs Oak Park is known for while doing the program. And board members and administrators all pointed out that the district's 6-year-old Strategic Plan included much of what IB is focused around — educating the whole child, having kids as active agents in their learning, and helping them become better citizens.
The district plans to have a broader community announcement about the program later this summer.