International Baccalaureate proponents organize against possible program cuts in Shawnee Mission

Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Jim Hinson.
Shawnee Mission School Superintendent Jim Hinson.

Word from Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson last week that the district was looking at shrinking its International Baccalaureate program and growing College Now and Advanced Placement courses has spurred a swift backlash from district IB students and their parents.

Hinson had hinted previously that the district was taking a closer look at the advanced college-prep programs it offers, suggesting that the myriad options currently on offer may make it difficult for students to decide which path would provide them the most benefit. At a Super Chat at Indian Woods Middle School last Wednesday, Hinson added more details, stating that the district was specifically looking at cutting back the IB program.

That news didn’t sit well with current and recently graduated participants and their families, who started an online petition to save the IB program in the district. As of Monday morning, the petition had 941 of its targeted 1,000 signatures.

District administrators apparently received an influx of inquiries on the situations as well, as SM East’s front office issued a statement noting that no official decisions about the future of the IB program would be made at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at the McEachen Administrative Center, 7235 Antioch:

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First launched in Shawnee Mission in the mid-1990s, International Baccalaureate provides a challenging curriculum for 11th and 12th graders. The curriculum, which tends to offer more writing-based and long-term assignments, is designed in part to prepare graduates for the academic environment at challenging colleges. Shawnee Mission currently offers the program on its SM East, SM North and SM Northwest campuses. There are only eight high schools in Kansas that offer the program.

Hudson Peters, a recent SM East IB graduate who transferred from the University of Kansas to Vanderbilt University last year and is preparing to study abroad in Sienna, Italy, this semester, said he was saddened by the prospect of IB not being available to as many students.

“It was a really positive experience for me,” he said. “It would be sad if they take it away…IB sees itself as a whole program and there’s a unifying idea behind all the classes. You’re with the same students in each class, so there’s a camaraderie about it you don’t get with AP.”