BACK TO SCHOOL

More magnet choices on menu in Lexington-Richland 5 schools

tflach@thestate.comAugust 20, 2013 

— ONLINE

The 18 eighth-graders in Caitlin McKenzie’s language arts class at Irmo Middle School spent their first day back in school Tuesday defining globalization.

Their lesson combined history, economics, geography, social studies and public speaking as the students partnered on explanations after watching a video full of facts and figures about our world and the impact of the Internet.

“Let’s make some sense of all this,” McKenzie said as her students tackled the assignment.

Her role is to focus students on approaching problems through teamwork and research, McKenzie said.

The class is one example of the expansion of magnet learning for students in Lexington-Richland 5 classrooms, including a new high school specializing in such instruction.

The menu has doubled to options at 13 schools, including the new Spring Hill High near Chapin.

It’s a start in expanding such education for the 15,000 students in classrooms in Chapin, Dutch Fork, Harbison, Irmo and St. Andrews.

The goal is “to get students to be more doers,” Irmo Middle School principal Robert Jackson said.

More than 900 students at his school will concentrate on global culture and business through interdisciplinary study comparing the Midlands with international sister cities of local municipalities, he said.

Such instruction forces students to be collaborative and creative, skills school officials say are necessary for “many careers not developed yet,” district chief instruction officer Christina Melton said.

It also helps students improve in time-honored learning, some educators say.

A new emphasis on multimedia skills at Seven Oaks Elementary in St. Andrews should pay off across-the-board in traditional studies such as math, principal Ann Copelan said.

Creation of magnet offerings is a path promoted by superintendent Stephen Hefner since he arrived in 2011 to oversee schools rated among the best in South Carolina.

“Each school must be uncommonly good at those things commonly offered by most schools,” he told school board members recently.

Hefner leaves it up to the faculty and community advisory groups at each of the 22 schools on the north shore of Lake Murray to develop their emphasis.

He oversaw expansion of such offerings in nearby Richland 2 as its superintendent. More than 10,000 of Richland 2’s 26,000 students are enrolled in 34 magnet offerings, officials say.

Spring Hill’s concentration on magnet instruction is unique among Midlands high schools.

Its initial class will be 570 freshmen and sophomores, with the first graduation in 2016 as 11th and 12th grades are added in stages.

“We’ll grow into our building,.” principal Michael Lofton said of a school designed for 1,700 students.

The emphasis is on what Lofton calls “the five Es” – entrepreneurship, engineering, entertainment, environmental studies and exercise science.

Spring Hill isn’t the traditional high school in other respects.

It won’t have sports teams and band, but will offer clubs for activities like running and sailing as well as debate and theater.

But it has a stallion mascot in recognition of the area’s past as a stagecoach stop and colors of red and khaki.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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