BUCKTOWN — A Bucktown elementary school has become one of just seven elementary schools within the Chicago Public Schools system to offer an International Baccalaureate curriculum for students as young as preschool, a draw some parents believe has attracted more young families.
"The kindergarten class today is made up of 50 percent neighborhood kids. The difference now from five years ago is how many families I see walking their kids to school, it's tremendous," said Scott Suckow, a parent with three children enrolled in Pulaski International School, 2230 W. McClean Ave.
After four years of being an International Baccalaureate "candidate" school, Pulaski earlier this month was authorized as an IB school for preschool through fourth grade, with a plan to have fourth- through eighth-grades complete its IB authorization this year, according to update on the school's website.
When the the middle year program is authorized, Pulaski will be one of 20 CPS schools offering the curriculum for its upper eighth grades.
Both a neighborhood school and a regional gifted center for Spanish-speaking English language learners, the school currently serves 912 students in preschool through eighth grade.
Formerly known as Pulaski School, the school replaced its fine arts program with the IB curriculum and reopened as an IB candidate school with a new principal in 2010.
Developed in 1968 in Switzerland as college preparation for the children of diplomats, the International Baccalaureate program mission "aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect."
Suckow, who has daughters enrolled in preschool, kindergarten and fourth grade, and is a parent representative on the school's local school council, said 35 percent of the schools' students are from the Bucktown neighborhood, twice as many as five years ago.
Around 2009, only 16 percent of the school's students were from the neighborhood, according to Catalyst Chicago, an education site that discussed the transition to IB and wondered if it was about a "gentrification struggle."
According to the school's profile, as of this fall, 82 percent of the students are Hispanic, 12 percent are white, four percent are Black and Asian, and two percent are "other."
Arlana Bedard is Pulaski's second principal since the change took effect in 2010, succeeding Pat Baccillieri, who resigned at the close of the 2011-12 school year just one year after the school tried to make the full transition to IB.
When asked why it took so long for the school to become authorized for IB, Bedard said on Wednesday she was awaiting a statement from CPS, though in general Bedard said, "I do know that IB processes are developmental and process-oriented so there is no final deadline."
Suckow added: "Just like a college that becomes accredited, the agency comes in to certify. We were evaluated in our third year and it took some time to get everything done."
Suckow said he believes the internationally focused curriculum is "rigorous" and provides, "a whole new framework for teaching."
"The nature of [IB] teaches students to be world thinkers and understand their place in the world, to understand context, so if something is one way in the United States, they know it might not be that way in the rest of the world," Suckow said. "The sooner you start teaching an open-minded approach, the better."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: