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School officials seek more diversity in magnet programs

November 25, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - More than 300 students applied for a spot in Washington County Public Schools' magnet programs this school year.

Officials said they are hoping to increase both the number of applicants and the diversity of those applicants for next year's classes.

Applications are being accepted through Dec. 15 for the 2007-08 school year. Magnet programs have been established at Boonsboro Elementary School for World Languages and Global Communications, Emma K. Doub School for Integrated Arts and Technology, Fountaindale School for Art and Academic Excellence and Williamsport Elementary School for Math, Science and Technology.

Content in magnet classes is more advanced and presented at a much faster pace, said Betsy Donohoe, supervisor of advanced programs. Magnet programs are available to Washington County students in second through fifth grade. Each school has two magnet classes for each grade level where it is offered.

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About 400 students currently are enrolled in the magnet programs.

Of the 334 applications received for the current school year, more than 200 were accepted, Donohoe said.

Of those accepted into the magnet classes for the 2006-07 school year, 226 are white and 14 are "nonwhite," said Carol Mowen, Washington County Public Schools spokeswoman.

Nearly 300 white students applied, and 35 "nonwhite" students applied, she said.

Donohoe said that overall, only 2 percent of students enrolled in the county's magnet programs are minorities. She said officials are working to recruit applicants from all groups of students.

She said some students might be unable to attend magnet schools because transportation is provided only for those students who live in the school district.

"Certainly, the availability of transportation for applicants has been a factor for families," Donohoe said.

Donohoe said more than 100 students who live outside an attendance area currently provide their own transportation to get to their magnet school.

There is no cost to enroll in the magnet programs.

Donohoe said there are many benefits to magnet programs, including high expectations and a faster pace.

"Students in magnet classes want to be there," she said. "These students are highly motivated and are with their intellectual peers."

Children who are curious, can recall facts easily, can concentrate on one activity for a long time, can see patterns, make connections and organize things might be good fits for magnet programs, Donohoe said.

Children with gifts in certain areas, such as music, might decide to go to a particular magnet school that has a focus in that area.

Donohoe said students enrolled in the county's magnet program are not necessarily just "smart kids." The program is open to all students, and they are critiqued on both performance and potential.

Donohoe said a major priority now is to move forward with a middle-school magnet program.




Applications, letter due by Dec. 15



Applications for Washington County Public Schools' magnet programs and an accompanying parent letter are due Dec. 15.

Application materials are available at Boonsboro, Emma K. Doub, Fountaindale and Williamsport elementary schools, and the Office of Advanced Programs at the school system's central office. Applications also are available on the school system's Web site at www.wcboe.k12.md.us.

Details may be obtained by calling 301-766-2800.

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