The school was inaugurated in 1974, and was established by President Sangoule Lamizana. It is a not-for-profit educational institution, which shall foster cultural relations between the Burkinabe people and the people of the United States of America, and of other countries represented by the school. The governing board of the School shall be the Board of Trustees (school board), which shall be represented by its members, including one or more representatives named by the Ambassador of the United States.

Several U.S. Embassy families, who wished to provide an American curriculum, English language education for their children, founded the International School of Ouagadougou in September 1976. In its first year the school was a correspondence program located in a room in the American Employees Recreation Center. After the first year, the parents decided to hire Susan Martz, a former Peace Corps volunteer. The school continued to grow and moved into other rental facilities on Avenue Raoul Follereau, which was the home of the school for the next fourteen years.

In the early 1980’s Head David Chojnacki brought the first computers to an international school in Africa. Official recognition in Upper Volta was granted by the Ministry of National Education in March 1984, the same year ISO was also accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Incorporation in the state of Delaware, USA came in 1986. Enrollment continued to grow over the next ten years from 12 to 95 students. In the late 1980s, Niamey exchanged weekends and field trips to Nazinga became part of the programme.

Through a request submitted by US Ambassador Neher in August 1986, the school was granted a site in Zogona in May 1988. The Mayor of Ouagadougou authorized ISO to occupy the site in November 1988. Construction of the wall began in January 1991 and the school moved from its former site during the Christmas break and classes resumed on the new campus in January 1992.

The Canadian government assisted in the completion of recreational facilities with additional funding. A buy-a-tree planting project was started to enhance the grounds. Parents, students, staff, and Friends of ISO contributed to the greening of the ISO campus.

ISO continued to thrive and improve its facilities and programs as well as reach out to the greater community. Under the directorship of Mr. Stanley Way, ISO was re-accredited as a quality school by the Middle States Association, and adopted the IB Middle Years Program. In the mid 1990 there were just over 100 students from over 20 different nations.

In the upcoming decade, enrollments were high and cash reserves became available to construct the middle/high school building. Funding for the initial grass field was obtained with the assistance of the US Department of Overseas Schools. The Middle Years Program was left open-ended in favor of a middle school approach. The Middle States Association approved the 9th grade program. A formal teacher evaluation system was instituted. The first ISO website was designed and implemented. With A/OS grant funding, a new well and water tower were developed along with a suppressor and new watering system for the field a set of two speed bumps were installed for pedestrian traffic safety the exteriors of all buildings were refurbished the basketball, tennis, and squash courts were repaired and repainted the 20-meter tiled pool replaced ISO’s 12-meter plastic-lined swimming pool at the Recreational Club.

2000 - 2008
The decade 2000-2010 marked great growth and improvement for ISO seeing computer lab, library, administrative/staff room areas, and Internet access. A power generator was acquired with the assistance of the government of the Netherlands and connected to three classroom complexes (Preschool, K/1, and science lab), the Library Media and Computer building, and the Admin building A software program for student grade reporting was locally developed and implemented. Security was improved with student ID Cards, metal gates, a new alarm system, and phones at two main gates. The Middle States Association approved grade 10, 11, & 12 in the Ascending Protocol as the University of Nebraska Correspondence Program was phased out completely at the end of the year 2001. The preschool and kindergarten program was revitalized with greater enrollment, and high school enrollment increased substantially each year as the full high school program was instituted with Middle States Association accreditation approval.

A Strategic Planning Survey was conducted and Strategic Planning Goals established. ISO celebrated its 25th Anniversary in February 2002 with ceremonies, speeches and an International day to emphasize its cultural diversity. This event reinforced ISO’s continued importance in the community for providing vital educational services to the dependents of governmental, NGO, and private personnel stationed in Ouagadougou.

The basketball court was covered and renovated to provide a much needed multi-purpose area. This provided a large well-lit area for basketball and volleyball, as well as productions, assemblies and gatherings. The Administration building was renovated to a 2 story building to provide much needed space including reception area, offices, a medical room, bathrooms and a larger staff lounge. ISOs Music and Drama department expanded in the development of the black box theatre.

During this decade, the scholarship program at ISO was initiated by Director Larry Ethier. This program made it possible for 2 students each year from the Burkinabe community to receive an academic scholarship based on their own high academic achievements up to grade 8 in a local school. Larry was decorated by the Minister of Education in the Spring of 2008 for his initiatives. This program continues to this day with 2018-2019 graduates Roxane Somda and Parfait Kabore attending Stanford and Colgate Universities on full scholarships.

2008 - 2011
During 2008-2011, a significant addition to ISO facilities came with the completion of the two-storied Upper School building housing a large auditorium, science labs and lab tech office, computer labs and IT department, seven large classrooms, offices, numerous storage spaces, washroom facilities and a student center. Upon completion, the art room found a new home in the science lab next to the administration building. ISO expanded its community outreach by inviting participation from community teachers in the Teachers Teaching Teachers (T3) workshop. Medical field trips, under the guidance of the Pam Lafi hospital, became part of the new community service graduation requirement. A housing complex in Zone du Bois was completed for our foreign teaching staff in 2011.

From 2010 onward the school lengthened its strides in areas of teacher, administrative and Board professional development. A commitment to community involvement was reflected in an addition to the school’s mission statement and supporting activities. The safety and security of students greatly improved with the construction of regulated entry and safer pedestrian and parking areas among other campus-wide initiatives and policies. In 2014 ISO achieved MSA
re-accreditation and in the same year developed a new seven-year strategic plan to consolidate improvements to teaching and learning through a coherent alignment of educational frameworks and purpose-built facilities. Other significant introductions came in the form of the Moodle Learning Management System, the Keystone Student Information System and a more fully functional school website. A new Internet satellite link and the strategic purchase of digital learning tools greatly enhanced an integrated approach to educational technology across both the Elementary and Upper schools. A pool was added to teacher housing in 2016.

2016 - Present
Since 2016, the new director changed the access on campus to the two front entrances only and reinforced them with sally ports. A pedestrian entrance was built to encourage drop-and-go. The bandwidth found a better monitoring with the optic fiber and the firewall. In 2019 students took the DELF (Diplome d’etudes de la Langue Française) and in 2020, the school received its authorization to become an IB school.

Mr. Jeff Trudeau a respected international educator for almost 30 years, joined the school as the new Director. Mr. Trudeau just completed eight years of service to the American International School of Monrovia. He is joined here in Ouagadougou by his wife Hassia — who teaches IB Biology and Upper School Science, and his daughter Salenna, who will join the Pre-Kinder 4 class. Mr. Trudeau and his family are very pleased to join the positive and proactive community here at ISO!