In a bid to broaden its appeal to more families, the East Baton Rouge Parish school system is considering creating new magnet programs at up to four schools in Baton Rouge.
These programs, however, are dependent, to a great extent, on a multimillion dollar federal grant the school system plans to apply for. The system will not know if it has received the grant until a year from now, September 2013, perhaps too late to start anything for the 2013-14 school year. That might delay creating this programs for another year, until fall 2014.
Carlos Sam, associate superintendent for school leadership and instruction, said the grant, while important, is not the only possible way to fund the start of one or more magnet programs for the 2013-14 school year.
“We may not fully rely on that grant,” Sam said. “That would be up to the superintendent and the board.”
Magnet programs, common in Baton Rouge for decades, began as a desegregation tool. They are attractive, specialized programs, usually in inner-city schools, that try to generate enough appeal to draw together students from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
Many current magnet programs have waiting lists and new Superintendent Bernard Taylor is pressing to offer them at more schools.
The four schools being considered for new magnets are Magnolia Woods and Polk elementaries, Broadmoor Middle and Lee High schools. Planning meetings are scheduled for Monday at Magnolia Woods, Tuesday at Broadmoor Middle and on Sept. 27 at Polk. All start at 5:30 p.m.
Lee High had its planning meeting in June. It’s the school that has generated the most attention so far.
The School Board agreed this past summer to reopen the high school, closed for three years to avoid state takeover, with just ninth and tenth-graders, 232 as of Thursday, and add an 11th and 12th grade in succeeding years. The plan was also to use 2012-13 as a planning year to develop specialized programs, starting in fall 2013, that would attract children attending other schools.
In June, future options discussed for the school included a visual and performing arts theme, starting a career academy, emphasizing the military, focusing on animation and digital media, and creating a science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, program.
Theresa Porter, recruiter for magnet programs, said the school system, with the help of outside consultant, plans to submit a proposal, probably in January, for as much as $4 million a year through the Magnet Schools Assistance Program. The school system, however, does not expect to know if it won the money until September 2013, and it will last between three and five years, she said.
The school system tried for this same grant in 2004, but did not get it, Porter said.
That’s when the school system ended up creating four dedicated, or schoolwide magnet programs, all requiring minimum test scores or grade point averages.
This go-around, the school system is not proposing magnets with selective admission requirements and they will all be part of, rather than occupy the whole school.
“You get dinged if you put admission criteria that’s tied to academic criteria in the grant,” Sam explained.
Sam, however, said the school system is considering other criteria, such as submitting examples of work, or having students to maintain minimum GPAs to stay in a magnet program.