North Hills School Board considers international online courses

| Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

North Hills School Board members have been asked to consider offering online International Baccalaureate, or IB, courses.

At the Jan. 9 board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Johannah Vanatta proposed piloting an IB course offering next year that would enable incoming juniors to enroll in prestigious, but rigorous, two-year online courses not otherwise available at North Hills High School.

The classes are highly regarded and catch the attention of college recruiters, Superintendent Patrick Mannarino said.

“I'm not sure why we wouldn't want to do this for our students,” Mannarino told the board at the meeting.

For the district to offer the classes, the school board must approve an affiliation agreement with the International Baccalaureate organization by Feb. 6.

IB classes are offered through International Baccalaureate, a foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland, that offers programs and courses with global perspectives.

North Hills administrators are proposing to adopt only courses, rather than an entire program, so enrolled students would not be qualified for an IB diploma.

The district would offer four classes — “Philosophy,” “Business Management,” “Information Technology in a Global Society” and “higher-level” mathematics, Vanatta said.

She said the district would be charged $1,300 per class per year for each student enrolled. Parents of students who fail or withdraw from the courses would be expected to repay the district, she said.

Currently only 24 students in the district would qualify for IB courses, and, Vanatta said, she does not anticipate that all of them would be interested.

She estimated that offering the courses would cost the district $10,000 next year at most.

“We don't know how many students will be interested in these,” she said.

Vanatta said the cost to the district per student is less than Advanced Placement courses, which require teacher training and test fees, or College in High School classes, which have institutional tuition fees.

Representatives from the mathematics, social studies and art departments also presented curriculum requests to the board Jan. 9.

Teacher Steve Hoza of the social-studies department said a decision on new textbooks is on hold because administrators are exploring whether it would make more financial sense to invest in digital books and tablets for students rather than traditional books.

“If there's another means of accessing textbooks that isn't $65,000 per course for bound paper, we need to be looking at that,” Mannarino said.

He said North Hills will not move to tablets next year, but administrators eventually would like to move toward that technology if it is more cost-efficient.

Department representatives announced plans to rewrite curricula for seventh- and eighth-grade math, local history courses, and K-12 art and music classes.

District officials also plan to offer high school students a College in High School course in psychology next year in conjunction with La Roche College.

Math teacher Kim Wroblewski said her department would like to introduce two remedial classes to the curriculum for students struggling to meet Keystone Exam standards.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. Reach her at or at 724-772-6353.

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