Richland 2 is adding three school-wide magnet programs in the 2014-15 academic year, at Westwood High, Longleaf Middle and Killian Elementary.
The programs, funded by a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, ensure that all students who enroll at the schools will participate in the specialty programs. That focus is distinct from the school within a school magnets such as Discovery at Spring Valley High School, the Horizon/International Baccalaureate at Richland Northeast High School, and the Learning Collaborative and TWOS Academy at Dent Middle School.
Those programs remain strong, but the all-school magnet concept widens the pool of magnet students and creates more academic choices for students who may not be accepted into the more selective magnets, said Richland 2 spokeswoman Theresa Riley Stephens.
We are trying to make our offerings appealing to all students, Stephens said. We want people to focus on offerings.
Grants writer Arlene Bakutes said that move to an all-school magnet program is not so much a trend but is based on the needs of the district.
Killian Elementary will offer a new STEAM Leadership Academy, focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and math curriculum. That expands the traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focus to include the arts and creativity, the district said.
That focus continues at Longleaf Middle with the STEAM magnet. Students who move from Longleaf to Westwood High can participate in the iRED Institute, which stands for research, engagement and design.
Students apply to the schools through the annual magnet and choice application process, which opens in January on the districts web site. The STEAM programs at Killian and Longleaf are lottery-based, just as the all-school magnet programs at Forest Lake Technology Magnet School and Conder Arts Integrated Magnet School.
The magnet programs aim to make Killian and Longleaf more diverse and encourage more attendance at Westwood High, the districts newest high school, which has about 1,400 students, Stephens said.
The new programs bring to 36 the number of magnets Richland 2 now offers. Students who are accepted to a magnet program must provide their own transportation if they are not zoned for the school.
At Westwood, the new program means students will be able to design their own curriculum based on their interests and aptitudes, said assistant principal Cheryl Guy.
We like to talk to students about their career ambitions and find the courses to determine what their interests are, she said. The idea is to create something at Westwood that would make students want to come here no matter where they live.
Offerings at Westwood include convergence media, engineering technology, health sciences and the districts only firefighting program.
The application period begins Jan. 7 and ends Jan. 31 at 5 p.m. Parents must accept or decline offers between March 24-28. Only two schools, Conder Elementary and Dent Middle, are closed to expanded choice this year.
Earlier this year, neighboring Lexington-Richland 5 school district received a $10.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to expand magnet instruction in that district over the next three years. The money went to the all-magnet Spring Hill High School, which opened this year, and to Irmo Middle School for its international academic magnet, Seven Oaks Elementary School for its digital magnet, Dutch Fork Elementary for its Academy for Environmental Science and to Irmo High Schools for its arts magnet. Those four programs will open in 2014. Overall, there are 13 schools with magnet programs in that district.
Staff writer Tim Flach contributed to this story.