Wake County school board members called Tuesday for a review of the magnet school program, as staff members recommended adding magnet programs to Athens Drive High School in Raleigh and Reedy Creek Middle School in Cary.
School administrators want to apply for a federal grant to fund the two new programs and to revise the themes at two Raleigh magnet schools – East Millbrook Middle School and Powell Elementary School. Before a final decision is made on which schools to include in the grant request, board members said they want staff to conduct a review of the state of the magnet program.
Although Wake’s magnet program has earned national recognition for helping to integrate schools, there’s been a 29 percent drop in applications since the 2009-10 school year. Items in the review could include application selection priorities, whether some schools need to change their themes and whether the application and base attendance areas need to be revised.
“For the schools that are not as successful magnets, what are the factors? What are the hindrances?” said school board member Jim Martin.
Wake is working under a tight time frame. The annual Magnet School Fair for families to get more information is on Nov. 7. The application period for the 2016-17 school year will be in January.
Since 1982, Wake has used the magnet program to diversify school enrollments, fill under-enrolled schools and provide additional educational opportunities. Wake’s 40 magnet schools offer programs – such as advanced arts and foreign language courses – typically not found at other schools, in order to attract middle- and upper-income students.
All four schools recommended for inclusion in the new federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant have higher than the district average in the percentage of students receiving federally subsidized lunches. Even if Wake doesn’t win the grant, the district would be required to start the programs using local dollars.
“This is the only federal funding that addresses desegregation in public schools,” said Beth Cochran, Wake’s senior director for magnet and curriculum enhancement programs. “So as we select schools for the grant we carefully choose schools that align with the grant purposes.”
For Athens Drive, staff cited factors such as how it was the only comprehensive high school near downtown Raleigh that isn’t a magnet school.
For Reedy Creek, it would represent Wake’s continued expansion of the magnet program into western Wake.
“As our district grows, we’re looking more to place new magnets on the rim so that students can get there from downtown and the suburbs,” Cochran said.
School calendars backed
The Wake County school board gave tentative approval Tuesday to next year’s schedules for traditional-calendar, year-round and modified-calendar schools.
North Carolina’s school calendar law is causing traditional-calendar schools to start later than normal and end earlier than usual in the 2016-17 school year. As a result, Wake is planning to shorten winter break by a day and drop a proposed day off on the Jewish holy day of Rosh Hashanah to try to build in enough teacher workdays.
In response to complaints about year-round students starting next year on a Friday, the first day of classes would be moved from July 8 to July 11. To replace the day, classes would be held Jan. 2, 2017.
The board will hold the official vote on the calendars on Sept. 15.