6 magnet schools planned Berger stresses quality and choice

January 07, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Specialized magnet programs designed to give students greater educational opportunities and create greater racial balance will open in at least six Baltimore County high schools in September.

Another 10 schools are developing magnet proposals for future years, officials said yesterday as they outlined their ambitious, if sketchy plans.

The magnet programs will allow students with special interests to choose an alternative to their local schools.

Two of the six schools will be countywide magnets; the others will be regional. Some of the programs are for accelerated students, but most are geared toward special interests such as the arts, health, the environment and engineering.

"We all have different talents and interests, and one broad brush does not meet the needs of everyone," said Anita Stockton, the new coordinator of magnet programs. "We need to provide some choices."

Choice is integral to the magnet concept, added Superintendent of Schools Stuart Berger. He said the availability of specialized programs could entice parents who might otherwise send their children to private schools.

At the outset, the school department will concentrate on programs at four vocational schools around the county as well as at Kenwood High on the eastern end, which has one of the county's highest dropout rates; and at Milford Mill Academy in the western end. A magnet program is also being considered for Woodlawn High School, which like Milford Mill is in the western end of the county and has a high minority enrollment.

The magnet programs will help to bring greater racial balance to the schools, Dr. Berger predicted. "We would like them to be more racially integrated," he said, and offering "quality magnet schools" is a voluntary way to do that. The programs were presented as a package yesterday during a meeting of principals from the target schools.

Each school will develop its own admission criteria, and each magnet program will have a limit on enrollment. But no students will be moved out of their home school to accommodate magnet students.

"A lot of changes are coming very very fast," Dr. Berger said. "I guarantee you in three years, people will be standing in line to get into these schools."

Officials said that as students leave their community schools for magnet programs, those schools will will improve as principals develop ways to attract and keep students.

"The net result is that you get a higher quality of education everywhere," said Ms. Stockton.

In the past, critics of the magnet system have said other schools will suffer while resources are channeled into magnet programs. Ms. Stockton denied that would happen.

"We certainly don't need to create haves and have-nots," she said.

"It's a delicate balance of orchestrating all schools to be the best that they can be."

These are the countywide programs:

*Central Vocational-Technical School in Towson will become a countywide school called Carver Center for Arts and Technology, with academic programs as well as those in literary arts and performing arts, including dance, music, theater and television. The school will continue its existing technical programs.

*Western Vocational-Technical School in Catonsville will also become a countywide school called Western School of Technology and Environmental Science. It will continue its technical programs, add academic courses and integrate environmental subjects.

These are the regional programs:

*Southeastern Technical School, near Sollers Point, will continue draw half-day students interested in technology courses from nearby high schools and coordinate those students' academics more closely with their technical education. It will specialize in allied health and industrial technology courses.

*Eastern Vocational-Technical School in the Essex-Middle River area will continue as a comprehensive regional magnet school ++ for students in the eastern part of the county, but will add an allied health curriculum that will be open countywide. It will add technical engineering courses in 1994.

*Milford Mill and Kenwood will add a new, accelerated International Baccalaureate curriculum described as a "prestigious academic program" used in schools nationwide. Each will start with up to 50 ninth graders from throughout the county next year.

The International Baccalaureate will be "another option for bright youngsters," but it will not replace the existing gifted and talented programs, said Ms. Stockton. "The GT option will still be there," she said.

*In addition to these programs, Woodlawn High School is proposing that it become a math and science magnet for students interested in pre-engineering courses. This proposal will be presented to the school board later this month.

"Woodlawn will be absolutely the last for this year," said Ms. Stockton. But about 10 more secondary schools and several elementary schools are developing magnet proposals for the future.

The school system has asked County Executive Roger Hayden and the County Council to approve a transfer of capital funds to cover the renovations needed at the schools, especially Carver and Western.

"We will open those schools if we have them dancing in the welding shops," said Dr. Berger.

MAGNET FAIR JAN. 21

The Baltimore County school department will introduce its new magnet programs at a Magnet Fair, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 21 at Parkville High, 2600 Putty Hill Ave. The fair is geared to students who will be entering the ninth or 10th grade and their parents. In the event of bad weather, the fair will be conducted Jan. 25 at Loch Raven High School.

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