Athens Drive High School is now one of Wake County’s newest magnet schools, ensuring that every high school in and around downtown Raleigh has a specially themed program.
On Tuesday, the school board unanimously voted to add magnet programs to Athens Drive High, located in west Raleigh, and Reedy Creek Middle School, located in the eastern side of Cary. Magnet staff had noted that all the comprehensive high schools near downtown Raleigh are already magnet schools as a reason to add that status to Athens Drive.
High schools such as Broughton, Enloe and Southeast Raleigh near the city’s downtown area are magnet schools that have openings for application students. Other nearby Raleigh high schools such as the Wake STEM Early College, Vernon Malone College & Career Academy and the two leadership academies only take application students.
“It puts us on the same footing as Broughton and Enloe,” said James Hedrick, principal of Athens Drive.
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Magnet students can begin applying in January to attend for the 2016-17 school year, but the new themes for Athens Drive and Reedy Creek haven’t been developed yet.
Both schools are expected to offer programs designed to attract more affluent students. An above average percentage of students at both schools receive federally subsidized lunches, a measure of family income.
Because of their locations, Athens and Reedy Creek are expected to draw applications from western Wake. Although western Wake has historically been a major location for magnet applications, there’s been a 29 percent drop in applications countywide since the 2009-10 school year.
“I’ve advocated highly for my belief that we needed to start moving some of the magnet programs a little bit further out of the center and into the edge of suburbia, and I think these two schools are just excellent candidates for that,” said school board member Susan Evans.
Since 1982, Wake has used the magnet program to diversify school enrollments, fill under-enrolled schools and provide additional educational opportunities. Wake’s magnet schools, now 42 in number, offer programs such as advanced arts and foreign language courses.
In the past four years, the school board has added 11 magnet schools in lieu of reassigning students as a way to diversify schools that have seen increases in their percentages of low-income students.
Wake will request funding from a federal grant to start the two new magnet programs. Wake will also request grant money to revise the magnet themes at East Millbrook Middle School and Powell Elementary School, a pair of Raleigh schools that have seen declining numbers of applications.
But even if the grant isn’t approved, Wake would have to continue with the changes to the four schools using local dollars.
School calendars adopted
The Wake County school board adopted Tuesday 2016-17 calendars for traditional, year-round and modified calendars.
The new calendars also come with plans for weather makeup days. If there are a large number of snow days, traditional-calendar and modified-calendar students could have classes on April 1, a Saturday. Administrators said they had learned their lessons from this year, when parents complained that makeup days were announced and then changed.
The board also reallocated $2.6 million from the 2006 building program to pay for starting designs for a new high school in Fuquay-Varina, a new middle school in western Cary and the new Bryan Road Middle School in Garner. The new schools could open in 2019.