Magnet programs grow


Published: Friday, January 30, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 30, 2004 at 12:41 a.m.

Elementary school parents will have three more "flavors" to consider for their children's education in Alachua County this fall.

Three districtwide magnet programs will be open to any parent who wants to apply and whose students meet the selection criteria.

"We have a history of successful magnets in the district, and people have shown they're interested in education with different flavors," said Diana Brantley, the former coordinator of Eastside High's International Baccalaureate program now helping to develop the magnets.

The district is hoping the three programs at eastside elementary schools - Duval, Foster and Williams - will boost enrollment and diversity.

Magnet schools offer a specialized area of study and are open to students across the county because transportation is provided.

The district expects to distribute brochures on the magnets next month and also will lead information sessions at each of the schools.

In the fall, the district sent a survey to parents querying their interest in possible districtwide magnet programs at elementary schools.

Among parents, many expressed highest interest in a program that stressed mathematics, science and technology, Brantley said.

Such a program for fourth- and fifth-graders will debut at Stephen Foster Elementary, 3800 NW 6th St., this fall.

Students will spend about half their day learning math and science with technology integrated, Foster Principal Darla Boyd said.

A science and technology specialist will be assigned to the school, and the school expects to have "state-of-the-art" technology such as hand-held microscopes, Boyd said.

To be selected for the program, a student would have to be performing above grade level in reading and math according to recent standardized tests, Boyd said.

The district hopes to begin the magnet with as many as 80 students this fall, Boyd said.

At Duval Elementary, the fine arts program previously open to students who lived within the school's zone will be open to any elementary-aged student in the county.

"What makes us different from other magnets is we have a whole-school initiative," said Angie Terrell, fine arts program facilitator. Terrell was referring to how every student in the school is exposed to fine arts teaching beginning in kindergarten.

Duval has two visual arts teachers, two music teachers, a drama teacher, a dance teacher and a program facilitator, Terrell said. Most elementary schools have just one art teacher and one music teacher.

Duval staff credited the introduction of the fine arts program in fall 2002 as being partially responsible for the learning gains that boosted the school's performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

At Williams Elementary, the district will expand its existing gifted magnet program to serve second grade through fifth grade, Brantley said.

Though each elementary school offers classes for students classified as gifted, it lasts only part of the day.

At Williams, gifted students remain with their peers all day.

Also, each of the programs' teachers are trained in working with gifted students.

Douane D. James can be reached at 374-5087 or jamesd@gvillesun.com.

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