More than 60 students, parents and educators expressed their support for Granada High School's International Baccalaureate program at a Livermore school board meeting last week following an announcement of its upcoming termination.
"IB is a family and we fight for our family," one Granada freshman said at the end of her comments. In addition to the dozens of speakers who shared public comment, other supporters of the program were present at the May 23 meeting in a show of solidarity.
Students shared their personal connections to the IB program, including many who moved to the city specifically to take IB courses at Granada and others who have transferred and commute from other districts to participate. Several students echoed each others' sentiments that in addition to the academic benefits of the program, they've established a bond and sense of community among their cohort of fellow IB students.
Granada was authorized as an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme school in February 2016. Since its inception seven years ago, the program has provided the opportunity for students to pursue the full IB diploma or take individual IB courses. Since 2018, 77 students have earned an IB diploma.
The Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District Board of Education heard a participation and cost update about the program from district staff during the meeting indicating that 22 students are on track to earn an IB diploma this year.
The presentation also echoed similar points that were shared in an email to the campus community from Granada principal Clark Conover earlier in the month, announcing that the program would be suspended as of the 2024-25 school year. District officials said the informational presentation was placed on the school board's May 23 agenda to provide additional data and rationale related to the decision to the public.
Both Conover's email and the district staff presentation painted a picture that the program is not cost effective given the small number of student interest.
"The IB Diploma Programme has had limited interest from our students, in part because it requires a strict course completion of 'Standard Level' and 'Higher Level' IB classes and leaves little room for the pursuit of non-IB courses," Conover's email read.
"Though the program has many great qualities, over the past five years an average of less than 16 students per year are completing the IB Diploma requirements. With a program cost in excess of $400,000, it is very difficult to justify the cost with the number of students who complete the program," he added.
The email also noted that suspending the IB program will allow for an expansion of Advanced Placement courses which IB students will be able to take and achieve equivalent outcomes.
According to program supporters, neither teachers nor parents were notified that the decision to suspend the program was being considered or given the opportunity to provide feedback before it was made.
"We are pushing back especially against the notion that the program serves an average of less than 16 students per year at a cost of over $400,000," said Jennifer Wong in an email to Livermore Vine.
Wong is part of a working group of parents and community advocates coordinating the response to the issue.
She continued, "There were 425 students enrolled in at least one IB course at Granada this year alone. The significance of an IB education lies in the classroom process -- students gain so much just from taking the classes. Commitment to the full diploma is a fantastic option for highly motivated students, but there is so much more to it that the administration didn't consider in their calculations."
The IB program is a nonprofit educational foundation that aims to "focus on fostering critical thinking and building problem-solving skills, while encouraging diversity, international mindedness, curiosity, and a healthy appetite for learning and excellence," according to an informational presentation on the district's website.
The IB curriculum -- and particularly the diploma program -- offers rigorous courses and college-preparatory instruction as well as weighted grades and capstone exams that can result in college credit.
"We want to work in partnership with board trustees to evaluate, refine and secure funding for the program going forward, so that LVJUSD students don't lose access to this valuable program," Wong said.
Joe Michell TK-8 School also offers an IB curriculum tailored to the younger age group that they serve, preparing them to continue at the high school level. According to Wong, the school is preparing to promote its first class of students who have completed the full K-8 IB curriculum and will be starting at Granada in the fall.
"This fall would have had the largest incoming IB classes at Granada since the program began," she said.
District officials noted that the conclusion to cut out the IB program at Granada was not made hastily.
"The decision to suspend Granada's IB Diploma Program was determined after several months of discussion with Granada staff, our educational services team, our executive leadership team, and Board," district officials told Livermore Vine in an email.
"A deep dive of IB Diploma Program cost, student participation, and student outcomes were discussed at a March 16, 2023 special board meeting which was focused on analyzing academic programs," they said.
"While that meeting did not result in a formal vote by the board to suspend the program, there was board consensus and acknowledgment about the cost vs. student outcomes and that the district may need to consider the suspension of the IB diploma in order to provide a balanced budget moving forward. The uncertainty and unfavorable budget forecast shared in our May budget revise accelerated the decision to suspend the program," they added.
The district said it chose to suspend the program as of the 2024-25 school year, as opposed to next year, to ensure that any junior currently on track to receive an IB diploma for the 2023-24 term would be able to do so.
Amid pleas to reconsider the suspension, officials said that the district is currently working with Granada's administration and IB staff to determine if a streamlined, reorganized version of the IB program would align with current budget priorities.