ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Murray High School will soon be the first school in Albemarle County to have the International Baccalaureate program, also known as IB.
This year, school officials received a letter approving their candidacy as one of the new homes of the IB program.
Chad Ratliff, principal of Murray High School, said the IB program is perfect for the school's motto for student-centered learning.
"It's the perfect compliment philosophically to the Murray approach of learning that we've used over the last 30 years," said Ratliff. "Right now, we just think it's the perfect opportunity. The stars have aligned finally for us and we're very excited to add this final layer to deepen the learning opportunities for students."
The IB program places students in advanced classes for core subjects, including English and Spanish, for lessons that go beyond the textbook.
The lessons also encompass specific IB requirements, including a special philosophy course to get students thinking outside the box.
"They have a core IB component, a class called Theory of Knowledge, which is typically a student's favorite class. Also, they have an extended essay, which is a thesis at the high school level," said Ratliff.
Students in the program are also required to do more than 100 hours of community service and complete an elective, which Ratliff said will focus on art courses such as music, theater and dance.
BJ Santos, the health and physical education teacher at Murray High School, said she's excited for the opportunities her students will receive in her dance class through the IB program.
"I think the IB program brings a level of rigor that our students are looking for," Santos said. "They'll be able to dive much deeper and I think through that deeper dive they'll build their experience better."
After students complete the program, they will take assessments from each of their classes to see if they can earn their IB diploma for college credits.
Overall, Ratliff is optimistic about the future of the IB program and the benefits it will bring students to prepare them for college.
"You might often hear students say, 'I took IB in high school and boy I was very prepared when I got to college,'" Ratliff said. "I think that plays out. That's something that we're looking at as students come to Murray."
Murray High School is in its candidacy year with the program, which means it will train teachers to teach the IB curriculum.
Ratliff expects to start the program during the 2020 academic year.