Stakes rising in IB spat

Deputies called to keep an eye on program protest

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A sheriff's officer speaks with Aileen Koler on Friday outside Hayden Meadows Elementary School. Koler was among a handful of people, all opponents of the school's Primary Years Programme, who held signs and handed out literature promoting a meeting they held Monday to inform people why PYP and all international Baccalaureate Organization programs should be removed from schools. No citations were issued, nor were reports filed.

Public controversy regarding the International Baccalaureate Organization's Primary Years Programme at Hayden Meadows Elementary School spilled into the street this week.

Kootenai County Sheriff's Lt. Stu Miller said his department responded Friday and Monday to a request from people at the Hayden Avenue school asking officers to do some extra patrolling in the area because there were people protesting the school's IB program.

"At one point there was a little bit of a hindrance in the traffic lane," Miller said.

A verbal warning was given to a person standing on the side of the road opposite the school, he said, who was handing flyers out to people in vehicles as they were entering Hayden Avenue.

"We told them you can have your protest, as long as you don't impede traffic," Miller said.

No citations were issued, nor were reports filed, he said.

Hayden Meadows parent Michelle Garcia was with the handful of community members who held signs promoting a meeting and handed out anti-International Baccalaureate literature.

"It was a little bit disrupting to traffic and things, but it was totally peaceful," Garcia said.

She said her concerns about IB and PYP at Hayden Meadows have her considering removing her child from the school.

The program has been the recent target of public criticism at school board meetings, and at a presentation given by IB opponents Monday at the library in Coeur d'Alene.

Lake City High School offers the IB Diploma program as an optional advanced learning choice for juniors and seniors, while the PYP at Hayden Meadows is an all-school program for elementary students.

While the majority of parents of students at Hayden Meadows support the program, including a number who have transferred their children to the school from outside the attendance zone, some community members feel the program should be discontinued because of its international focus and connection to the UN and UNESCO.

Parent Angie Phillips doesn't have a problem with people exercising their right to free speech, but she is concerned by what she considered an after-school traffic safety issue as hundreds of children make their way to buses, carpools or walk home.

In addition, she said police presence around the school Friday and Monday left some of the younger children confused and alarmed.

"We're having to explain to our kids why they're picketing," Phillips said.

Phillips, who is next year's PTA vice chair at Hayden Meadows and sits on the school district's Long Range Planning committee, encourages everyone on both sides of the issue to stop reacting and take a step back from it.

"We're just going to have to agree to disagree," Phillips said.

She has received calls from people asking if the children at Hayden Meadows say the Pledge of Allegiance, and if they fly the American flag outside the school.

Of course they do, Phillips said.

"I'm a Republican, I'm a Christian and I support PYP," Phillips said. "I'm as all-American as you're going to get."

Phillips said she and the other parents at Hayden Meadows are exercising their right to support public education.

"We have the right as American citizens to make these choices for our children," she said.

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