Four high-poverty and lower-performing schools could get new magnet school programs to help spark community interest in attending their campuses.
Wake County school administrators proposed Tuesday that Lincoln Heights Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina receive a magnet program – several years after a program was removed from the school. Administrators are also proposing major changes to the themes at three existing Raleigh magnet schools: Southeast Raleigh High, and Bugg and Millbrook elementary schools.
For more than 30 years, Wake has offered unique academic programs at magnet schools to try to attract affluent families to fill and integrate under-enrolled schools. The new and revised themes at the four schools haven’t been determined yet.
“We as a school system can tap into up to $15 million for some really innovative funding opportunities for schools that can use that,” said Brian Kingsley, assistant superintendent for academics.
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Wake would try to pay for the changes by applying for a federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant. Wake would be on the hook to start the new programs even if the grant isn’t approved.
Wake will have to locally pay for programs at Athens Drive High, Reedy Creek and East Millbrook middle schools, and Powell Elementary after not winning a grant this year.
Wake has added 11 new magnet schools since 2012 to try to diversify schools in lieu of trying to use student assignment to change their demographics. Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for academic advancement, cited the large recent expansion in explaining why staff is only recommending one new magnet school this year.
“These schools best met the focus we have on bolstering our existing magnet school programs,” Moore said.
Bugg, Lincoln Heights, Millbrook and Southeast Raleigh all have a much higher percentage of students receiving subsidized lunches than the district average. Their test scores are also below the district average.
The three existing magnet schools have seen sharp drops in recent years in the number of families applying to attend.
At Lincoln Heights, the demographics changed significantly after the school lost its magnet program in 2008. Back then, school leaders said Lincoln Heights no longer needed to be a magnet school.
“We have several nearby schools that are above capacity,” said school board Vice Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler, whose district includes Lincoln Heights. “It’s a great opportunity for revitalizing the magnet program in southeastern Wake.”