The program, which board members hope would allow Orange County Schools to better compete with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, would be hosted at Cedar Ridge High School.
The program would be shared with Orange High School, though transfers from other schools and districts may be considered.
The IB program is designed to give participants an edge over other students when applying to college. It is open to juniors and seniors, and admission is not contingent on test scores.
The program consists of six courses taken in different concentrated areas, as well as community service and college-level essay requirements.
Seventy-five percent of students who receive IB degrees go on to U.S. universities. There are more than 460 IB diploma programs in North America.
The board also had been considering funding a Spanish language program and an alternative-needs school. But the board chose to fund the IB program for financial reasons and because of problems securing the site for a new school.
Board member Delores Simpson said the board had to make a difficult decision in choosing to fund the IB program.
"I see them all as programs that will advance Orange County Schools," Simpson said. "However, in lieu of an alternative school, which we will get when the wheels start going, we approved the IB program."
Board member Dana Thompson said the three possible programs were not being measured against one another. "We weren't trying to decide just one of the three possibilities," Thompson said. "It's like comparing apples to oranges."
Thompson said she also hoped the IB program will help eradicate a long-standing gap in test scores between Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools students.
"We have different students in Orange County Schools, and we don't receive nearly the money Chapel Hill does," Thompson said. "I think it will be interesting to see if it does become a magnet program to attract students. I would be willing to accept students who would transfer from surrounding districts."
Board member Susan Halkiotis noted the esteem of the program and the effect it could have on the system as a whole.
"The benefits (of the IB program) are it provides a challenging curriculum for students to participate in," Halkiotis said. "The flexibility and universal recognition of the program serves students very well. The primary benefit is it raises and improves the educational climate in schools."
Simpson also mentioned that although the alternative school has not yet been approved, it is still one of the board's priorities. "I'm sure an alternative school will be a top priority when the teachers, time, staff and building locations are ready."
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