Summit school board reaffirms commitment to International Baccalaureate program with policy changes

The Summit School District Administration Building in Frisco is pictured on Nov. 12, 2020. The school district reaffirmed its commitment to the International Baccalaureate program through policy changes approved at the April 14 school board meeting.
Photo by Liz Copan/Studio Copan

The Summit School District has reaffirmed its commitment to International Baccalaureate curriculum through policy changes at its last board meeting.

International Baccalaureate is a nonprofit that provides learning programs for students that focus on education that fits a globalized world, including materials to develop a student’s intellectual, emotional, personal and social skills

On April 14, the Summit school board voted unanimously to give initial approval to a revised policy, which dictates how the district approaches instructional programs. Board members Consuelo Redhorse and Lisa Webster were tasked with updating the policy, which meant hours of “nerding out” on wording and verbiage, Redhorse said.

Ultimately, the most fundamental change was a written commitment to maintain the district’s International Baccalaureate curriculum, she said. The old policy did not include any wording around International Baccalaureate, which is commonly referred to as IB.

“The whole reason for embedding IB and all of these different programs is because that’s what we are,” Redhorse said. “We do IB. Everything that we’re doing — all of these curriculum reviews, everything that our kids do — is IB.”

For years, the district has been dedicated to International Baccalaureate education, with every school participating in the curriculum aside from Snowy Peaks, which offers alternative small-classroom education for select students.

The program teaches students to think critically and across subjects with the content they learn. For example, a student may be able to use content they learned in science and language arts courses to create a project about solving climate change issues.

The program often challenges students to tackle complex global problems, like hunger, climate change and gender inequality, through projects during their education career.

“I truly believe if all students across the U.S. were enrolled in an IB program, the world would be a better, safer and kinder place,” Jeanette McMurtry said during the public comment section of the meeting. McMurtry’s twin daughters were Summit High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian in 2020.

McMurtry said the curriculum gave her daughters a realistic view of the world and equipped them with tools to make a positive change.

With the International Baccalaureate program written into the district’s policy, the board will have more control over any changes to curriculum, Redhorse said. The new policy creates a framework so that administrators and teachers would need board approval to move away from International Baccalaureate programs.

“It really protects (International Baccalaureate) and makes sure that, if the board decides to go somewhere as a whole and we want to make a philosophical move in how our kids learn, we have a say in it,” Redhorse said. “It’s not just something that can slide under the table in an operational sense.”

The district is also working to ensure teachers are trained in the International Baccalaureate teaching and programs so that they are best equipped. Also at the April 14 meeting, the board approved new science curriculum at the high school level, which included increased professional development related to the program.

The approved the revised policy on first reading. In order for the new policy to receive full approval, the board will need to vote yes on second reading at an upcoming meeting.

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