Advanced studies program's expansion could mean high school for east Sacramento

Published: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 - 9:59 am

For years, the notion of bringing a high school to east Sacramento has been steeped in political posturing and bitterness. When recommendations were made, fierce opposition arose.

However, some say a parent-led effort may finally put to rest several issues that have dogged the school district, including what to do with the underenrolled Kit Carson Middle School.

The Sacramento City Unified School District is moving forward with plans to bring the International Baccalaureate program to Kit Carson and Caleb Greenwood, a K-8 school in River Park.

The hope is to create a kindergarten-through-12th-grade IB track, where students would attend Caleb Greenwood for elementary school before completing middle school and high school at Kit Carson.

"I am completely excited about it," said Mimi Lewis, the mother of two students at Caleb Greenwood.

The highly regarded IB program applies a rigorous, project-based learning philosophy that encourages students to think globally. Locally, Sierra View Elementary in Rocklin offers an IB program, as does Mira Loma High School, an academic gem in the San Juan Unified School District.

Sacramento City Unified currently offers an IB Diploma Program at Luther Burbank High School in south Sacramento for its advanced juniors and seniors.

As part of the educational remodel, Caleb Greenwood plans to offer the IB Primary Years program for kindergarten through sixth grades and, pending board approval, drop its seventh and eighth grades.

Kit Carson would offer the Middle Years Program and expand to the high school Diploma Program in 2015.

The schools will begin as IB candidates in September as they lay the groundwork to meet the program's standards for instruction and curriculum.

Caleb Greenwood Principal Amy Whitten said she expects it will take two years for her school to be authorized as an IB school.

"Authorization doesn't come easily," Whitten said. "There is an extensive amount of research and training in order to be authorized as a International Baccalaureate school."

Whitten said work is already being done to prepare teachers and said the community buzz over the IB program has translated into an increased interest for next school year.

"In the last four or five years, the enrollment has started to dwindle," Whitten said. "We are losing families who are looking for other programs. That was a big cause of sparking the need for doing something to meet the needs of our community. I expect to see some growth even next year and as we grow our program."

Kit Carson had 367 students last school year, down from 728 in 2003-04. Two miles from Kit Carson, Sutter Middle, with 1,350 students, can't meet demand.

Various efforts to consolidate Kit Carson and Sutter have been met with vocal resistance, particularly from Sutter's side, with parents urging the district not to disrupt a successful program.

Several failed plans proposed turning Kit Carson into a high school after Sacramento High was converted into a charter school in 2003.

Last year, school board member Jeff Cuneo proposed moving Sutter's students to Kit Carson Middle School, and converting Sutter into a high school serving east Sacramento. Parents protested.

Cuneo said he is pleased with the current plan for Kit Carson and Caleb Greenwood, both of which are in the trustee area he represents. Cuneo ran for the board two years ago with the intent of bringing a high school to east Sacramento.

"Depending on who you talk to they can nitpick, but given the political realities I've faced, this is a huge win for our community," said Cuneo, who was recently named board president. "I'm proud to bring this option forward from the community."

Matt Mitchell of River Park said the IB programs are providing needed changes and improvements at district schools.

"(Cuneo) was elected with a mandate to do something about the high school issue in this part of town," said Mitchell, a math teacher with two children attending district schools. "This Kit Carson initiative is a way to address that."

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Read more articles by Melody Gutierrez

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