Magnet programs offer world of opportunities


Published: Monday, January 9, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 9:56 p.m.
Whether they are interested in fine arts, technology, gifted studies, math and science, health care or some other field of study, chances are students will find a program that stimulates and motivates them in one of Alachua County Public Schools' magnet programs.
These programs provide a wide range of educational opportunities with very specialized curricula for students in elementary, middle and high school. Each magnet program features courses and activities designed to attract students who want to explore their interests and get a head start on college or on an exciting and rewarding career. Thanks to such programs, thousands of this area's young people have made very successful transitions into post-secondary education and/or the world of work.
About 3,300 students are currently taking advantage of one of Alachua County's magnet programs. Besides the obvious educational benefits, magnets promote diversity by bringing together students who live in different parts of the county. About 2,200 Alachua County students are now attending a magnet program in a school other than their zoned school.
In Gainesville alone, about 1,200 students living on the west side of the city are currently attending schools on the east side, which has boosted attendance at several previously under-enrolled schools.
At Williams Elementary, for example, 113 students from west side schools are attending the gifted magnet. Those students now make up 25 percent of the total school population. The same is true at Lincoln Middle, where 40 percent of the population is made up of students attending the Lyceum magnet from west side schools.
In the next few weeks, the families of all elementary and middle school students will receive information about Alachua County's magnet programs. Open houses for each program will be held in January and early February. A schedule is available on the district's website at www.sbac.edu.
Parents and students attending the open houses will have the opportunity to visit the facilities, talk with instructors and learn more about the program so they can decide if it's right for the student.
A districtwide information forum about high school career academies will also be held on January 19th at Buchholz High School from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The deadline to submit an application for all programs is Feb. 15. For information on elementary, middle and the International Baccalaureate (Eastside High School) and Cambridge (Gainesville High School) programs, call Allison Fissenden at 955-7622. For information on Career Magnet Programs, call Nancy Iafrate at 955-7600.
During the next few weeks, parents can make a choice that will affect their child's education, not just next year, but for many years to come.
The opportunities are there - we want our students and families to take advantage of them!
Allison Fissenden is a teacher specialist for gifted and magnet programs and Nancy Iafrate is a teacher specialist for career and technical education in the Alachua County school district.

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