There will be a large number of German nationals arriving in Cleveland in the near future and like any other parents of school-aged children, they are concerned about moving to a foreign country for a short period before returning home.
One of their concerns is their children’s education in the United States and where they will fit in the German school system when they return home.
Both local school systems have met with Wacker Chemie AG officials to discuss education of the children during their two or three years in Tennessee. Chattanooga had the same experience with Volkswagen.
Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Gary Farlow said during a recent Economic Development Council meeting, “It would be the same thing for an American company locating in another country that doesn’t speak your native language. We have had several meetings and will have more to talk about how our local systems can accommodate the influx of German students.”
There is an expectation of 100 to 150 German families bringing 50-60 children in the fall.
The school systems are researching International Baccalaureate, an international organization that offers high school diplomas that guarantee acceptance into almost any university in the world. International Baccalaureate is a nonprofit educational foundation founded in 1968. It is available in 3,141 schools in 140 countries to more 901,000 students 3 to 19 years of age.
“The International Baccalaureate is not only for Germans coming in. American students can earn the same kind of certification when they graduate,” he said.
There is an expense associated with providing such a degree in the form of application and renewal fees, and staff training.
Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said his school system has been interested in IB certification at Walker Valley High School.
“We are also working with the state to bring in the Cambridge program so we would have a dual approach,” he said. “Cambridge is from the U.K. It is accepted in Europe and widely accepted in Florida and Connecticut.”
He said the local school systems are working on a $6 million grant for Bradley Central, Walker Valley and Cleveland High School. The program would be a way to provide a more rigorous opportunity for high-achieving students. The grant would initiate the program. The problem would be maintaining it once the money is gone.
McDaniel said Bradley County Schools wants the students from Germany as well as those who move here from other parts of the U.S.
Farlow said there are companies from other nations that could benefit from the advanced degree program.
“It puts our community in a more competitive position to be able to accommodate the population that is going to be here,” Farlow said. “WACKER and Volkswagen people will be here for many, many years to come and their people will be rotating in and out. It’s a program we think is needed, but it not only benefits their students, it benefits ours.”
Saturday school in an educational facility is another option under consideration as a way of using spouses of WACKER employees as tutors or teachers to keep German students abreast of their peers at home.
Farlow said those are the kinds of options needing discussion — “How do we do it? Where do we do it? Do we need to do it in more than one school?”