Nova Scotia

Sydney Academy to lose IB program

Students and staff at Sydney Academy are reacting with dismay after members of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board voted to cancel their International Baccalaureate program.

Only school in Cape Breton that offered advanced program

Students and staff at Sydney Academy are reacting with dismay after members of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board voted to cancel their International Baccalaureate program.

"As a school community, we are surprised and deeply shocked by this sudden decision," Kevin Deveaux, the principal of Sydney Academy, said in a statement posted to the school's website.

"We ask for your support in bringing the devastatingly negative educational consequences of this decision to the attention of the wider school community, and more specifically, to the parents of those children who are, of course, the most obvious losers in this situation."

The IB program is offered at 13 schools across Nova Scotia, but Sydney Academy is the only school in Cape Breton where students can take advanced courses as part of an internationally-recognized diploma.

Earlier this week, a committee within the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board voted to phase out the program by 2014.

Lorne Green, the chair of the school board, said the decision was about redirecting resources and not about budget cuts.

"Some of these classes have small numbers in them. The numbers are ranging from as small as five and seven to maybe 13, 14," Green told CBC News.

"The board's seen that this is a way to bring the student ratio in line."

He said gifted students can still get the extra attention in regular classrooms.

"We can develop individual programs and planning for these students, no different than we do for students that are struggling," said Green.

Deveaux said the cancellation of the program would inevitably mean lost opportunities for Cape Breton students.

"The recent decision will have extremely unfortunate consequences that will impact negatively on a significant number of Cape Breton youth resulting in lost educational opportunities that students in other jurisdictions take for granted," he wrote.

Final decision on June 18

Matthew White, who graduated from Sydney Academy in 2004, will soon have a PhD. He credits the International Baccalaureate program for that.

"I was able to skip a huge amount of courses at Cape Breton University and others at Memorial University, where I went later on," he told CBC News on Wednesday.

"It, to me, speaks to a level of preparation that is not currently available elsewhere in the board."

Education Minister Ramona Jennex said she was disappointed with the committee's recommendation to cancel the IB program and hopes the school board will reconsider.

"IB programming in Nova Scotia is one of our stars in our crown, so to speak. We're the only province in Canada that actually funds it through our formula," Jennex told reporters.

"I want children in that area to have the opportunity to have IB so I do hope that they look at that recommendation and don't approve it."

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will make a final decision about the program at its meeting on June 18.

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