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SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2007

Austin, Decatur IB enrollment numbers rise in second year

By Bayne Hughes · 340-2432

After a slow start in its first year, enrollment numbers are putting the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programs at Austin and Decatur high schools on firmer ground, as the programs enter year two.

Decatur High School’s numbers almost tripled in the junior and senior honors program as enrollment goes from nine in the first year to 26 enrolling for the 2007-08 school year that begins in August. Principal Mike Ward said more than 30 wanted to get into the program, but some did not qualify academically.

“The program is growing, and it’s going to get stronger each year,” Ward said.

Austin High started with only three in the inaugural class, but 17 enrolled in the IB Diploma Program when the school conducted class registration in April.

“I was hoping for more, but we’re very pleased (with the number that did enroll),” Austin IB Coordinator Susan Giguere said.

Both programs could get additional students before the school year begins in August. The school system, which is under a federal desegregation order, is waiting on permission from the U.S. District Court to accept students who do not live within the school district into the Diploma Programs.

School officials said they weren’t surprised that small numbers enrolled in the first year. The fear of the unknown and the program’s demands kept some students from registering.

“I think the growth certainly speaks to the sustainability of the program and the acceptance of the program,” Superintendent Sam Houston said. “People are realizing what a very good program it is for their kids.”

Officials said they feel they’ve done a better job of preparing the students as underclassmen so they’re more confident in enrolling in the program.

The schools are offering pre-Diploma classes that teach time management and research and oral presentation skills that are necessary in the Diploma Program.

Decatur IB Coordinator Kim Qualls said the increased numbers would help the schools in scheduling, especially since a typical high school class usually has between 18 and 28 students.

“We had to do some creative scheduling with only nine students,” Qualls said.

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