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The Valley Regional High School (VRHS) International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which is intended to give high-performing students a leg up in college, is entering its first year with uncertainty about how—and who—will pay for students’ testing fees.
The Region 4 Board of Education discussed the senior testing fees at its Jan. 7 meeting, though a final decision has not yet been made. The matter will need resolution before seniors in the Class of 2021 take the tests, which cost $714 per student, in November 2020.
Developed in Switzerland during the 1960s, the IB program began as a way of giving students around the world the opportunity to take college-level courses while in high school and to earn an internationally recognized diploma respected by universities globally.
The program is a two-year program that starts at the beginning of junior year of high school. If students complete the program successfully, they not only achieve a high school diploma at graduation, but also an IB diploma, which may result in an advanced admission standing, course credit, scholarships, and other college admission-related benefits for students seeking to further their education.
VRHS is the first public high school in Middlesex County to achieve IB authorization and the 2019-’20 school year was the first time the program was offered to students. Because the program is new, the cost of testing fees and how they would be paid were uncertain when the program was adopted.
The board is currently debating if the $714 fees should be paid by the district, by the student’s parent or guardian, or by a combination.
“Last year we were given fees for IB and told that we could eliminate these [fees] to save some money. That’s why we’re talking about them. We shouldn’t have been led that way,” said board member Rick Daniels. “This discussion only needs to come from the idea if there is a financial need.”
“We will be investing in our students and its money well spent,” said board member D.G. Fitton.
Fitton favored following the model set forth by the school with Advanced Placement testing fees, which is that the school and the students’ guardians split the cost of the test fees.
“We need to give our kids the best education,” added Fitton.
Board Vice Chair Jane Cavanaugh said that most other school districts throughout the state do not pay any portion of students’ AP testing fees. She suggested that if students’ guardians are asked to pay the full amount of testing fees for IB in Region 4, privately funded donations could be raised for low-income students unable to pay. Other board members noted that the board could not base its decision about the matter on something beyond its control.
“The BOE cannot supply scholarships,” said Daniels.
At the Jan. 7 meeting, the board resolved to continue the discussion at future budget meetings once all accurate IB costs to the district are known concretely.
“We really need to know all the IB numbers before we make a decision,” said Daniels.
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