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Magnet school interest is high

Washington County Public Schools received more than 100 applications for 40 seats available in the gifted program at the Fountai

Washington County Public Schools received more than 100 applications for 40 seats available in the gifted program at the Fountai

July 10, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools' first magnet school program for academically gifted students is on its way to filling the program's most basic need - students.

The school system received 102 applications, and three more are expected to be submitted this week, for the 40 seats available in the gifted program that will be part of the Fountaindale School for Arts and Academic Excellence, Fountaindale Principal Elaine Semler said Tuesday.

"We're really excited. ... I knew this was a concept that was long overdue," Semler said. "I was very pleased we got 102 applications. It's a validation of the program. Parents are looking for something different."

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The gifted program will have 20 students in a combined second- and third-grade class, and 20 students in a combined fourth- and fifth-grade class, Semler said.

There also will be enhanced art and music classes for all Fountaindale students, she said.

Students will be selected for the gifted program based on several factors including student interviews, standardized test scores and a questionnaire.

Each piece of a student's application will be given a score, and the highest scoring students will be accepted into the program, Semler said. A committee of school officials, including Semler, will oversee the selection process.

Applications from students attending Fountaindale, Paramount, Potomac Heights and Pangborn elementary schools will be considered first, she said.

If less than 40 students from those four Hagerstown schools have acceptable scores, the program will be opened to students from other schools, she said.

Most of the applications came from students from those four Hagerstown schools. Four applications are from students who attended private schools during the last school year, she said.

Additional tests and interviews of applicants will be completed next week. Students will find out whether they have been accepted into the gifted program by Aug. 1, Semler said.

The schoolwide enhanced arts and music programs will include computer graphics, painting, dance and drama, choral music and instrumental music classes, she said.

Art and music also will be used more in regular classes.

For example, when fifth-graders learn about the Civil War, they will learn more about the music and art of that time, she said.

Also, Fountaindale students will begin learning how to play the piano using small keyboards in kindergarten, and then be taught another instrument, probably violin, beginning in third grade, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

"Students will know how to play two instruments by the time they leave Fountaindale," she said.

Morgan said the enhanced programs at Fountaindale will cost about $80,000 above normal spending.

There is no special fee for applying or attending the school. If an accepted student lives outside the Fountaindale area, the parents would be responsible for transporting the child to school, Morgan said.

The magnet programs, so named because they tend to attract students, will help bring some "voluntary redistricting" to the area, Morgan said.

The elected Board of Education "considered and ultimately rejected" moving students from Pangborn, Potomac Heights and Paramount to Fountaindale through involuntary redistricting, Morgan said.

"This now will enable us to do it voluntarily," she said. "It tells me that when you have something worthwhile, parents are willing to move their children.

"This will not create bad feelings, and (it will) accomplish the same purpose."

Morgan said she hopes Fountaindale will be the first of many county schools offering special programs.

"I really believe in choice for students and parents, and the Fountaindale program is the beginning of many choices to come for students and parents," she said.

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