Students at two local elementary schools have reason to celebrate this week.
On Monday, students at Wiley Elementary near downtown Raleigh danced in the halls and chanted, “We are Wiley!”
Douglas Elementary students will gather Friday morning at their school near North Hills to paint and cheer their accomplishments.
Douglas was recently named the top magnet school in the nation from Magnet Schools of America. Wiley was named the top magnet elementary school.
“I think it’s affirmation of the hard work we are doing as a school, but also an affirmation of the purpose of magnets,” said Katie Ware, assistant principal at Wiley.
Magnet schools offer programs typically not found at regular schools. Wake County has used magnets since 1982 to diversify school enrollments, fill under-enrolled schools and provide additional educational opportunities.
Douglas Elementary offers a creative arts and science magnet. The arts are integrated into every class, and students take part in hands-on science learning.
“I actually came into school this year saying we’re going to have the best school year ever, and being the best magnet school in the nation is hard to beat,” said Douglas principal Derek Burns.
The school received the Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Merit Award, the highest honor awarded by Magnet Schools of America. The award comes with a $5,000 prize, and school leaders say most of the money will go toward science materials.
Burns, who is in his second year at Douglas, attributes the award to the school’s innovative teachers who are not afraid to try new techniques to engage students.
Douglas became a magnet in 2000. About 33 percent of the student body are magnet students, meaning they don’t live in the neighborhood.
Wiley offers an international studies theme in which students have the chance to study five languages. About 26 percent of the students are magnet students.
Wiley was awarded an Elementary Magnet School of Merit Award from Magnet Schools of America.
“Our kids just have a lot of fun, that’s the best part of it,” Burns said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCiofffi