Magnet programs offer opportunities
Caddo Parish Public Schools launched its magnet school program in the late 1970s to offer parents more choices in educating their children. The end of the 2019-2020 school year and the start of this academic year have forced all of us, including schools, to consider even more alternatives.
Students adapted to remote, online learning. Teachers became students again as they adopted new methods for virtual classrooms. The key to successfully navigating the change at any school is parental involvement, said Mary Harris, principal at South Highland Magnet School.
“It’s been difficult, whether you’re a magnet school or not,” she said. “Parents make a choice to send their children to magnet schools. Because of that choice, they are here all the time. But because of COVID, they haven’t been able to be here. It’s created a communication disconnect with parents for all schools. We all feel a little more isolated.”
And while the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way schools operate, magnet programs remain a popular choice with parents seeking expanded opportunities for their children.
“That’s my passion,” Julia Scruggs, curriculum specialist, said of the magnet program. “I taught in magnet schools and other schools. There is such an opportunity for children and parents who want to support them. With that, they can be successful. They all have different programs and strengths.”
Caddo Parish Schools has five magnet elementary schools, two magnet middle schools, one magnet K-8 school and three magnet high schools, each with a unique theme within its magnet program. For example, Eden Gardens has “The Leader in Me” theme running through the magnet program. South Highlands is an artsintegrated, Louisiana A+ Schools program.
Scruggs said the variety among the magnet programs is a cornerstone to the program’s success.
“They were created to give parents a different choice to have a school to go to based on their child’s academic ability,” she said.
There are some commonalities among the magnet programs that set them apart, Harris said.
“I think one thing that is consistent for all magnet schools is critical thinking and the creative, hands-on activities that meet the needs of advanced and gifted learners. Our kids want to talk and discuss and problem solve. All of us, in different ways, lend our support to that for our students.”
Cori Anderson said she and her husband, Eric, were unfamiliar with the magnet programs when they moved to Shreveport. Their daughter, Amelia, is now a freshman at Caddo Magnet High School. Their son, Abram, is a seventh-grader at Caddo Middle Magnet. Both graduated from South Highlands.
“It was a new concept for us,” she said.
“We were used to traditional neighborhood schools. We had a lot to learn about the magnet schools and the process. We are in a good neighborhood district with A.C. Steere. We thought we would test and see what happens.”
Anderson said she was impressed with the arts program at South Highlands. Once her daughter started at SHM, she found “the academics are rigorous, the teachers are incredible, and there is lots of support.”
Then came the transition to Caddo Middle Magnet.
“When you make the transition from elementary to middle, there is always the stress,” she said. “Especially for CMM, in particular, because it is so large. I was concerned about my child going to such a large middle school. But I found she transitioned well.
“Caddo Middle prepared them well. They have the Stallion Roundup and divide them into houses. They were mixed with seventhand eighth-graders. They met people they weren’t going to be in classes with. They are aware of that time period in kids’ lives. They do a good job connecting with kids. That prepares them for high school, where they can explore interests as they prepare for the future.”
Anderson said her daughter did not originally plan to attend Caddo Magnet High but is glad she did.
“She is focused on academics,” Anderson said. “Academics there are rigorous. The atmosphere there is like a small, liberal arts college. She was drawn to that aspect.”
Anderson said her children are motivated differently, but the magnet programs have something for her son as well.
“It offers opportunities that tap into different learning styles,” she said. “Maybe he’s not so hot at test-taking. They have things like robotics or artistic or dramatic outlets that he could explore and find interest in.”
Scruggs encourages parents to learn all they can about all of the magnet programs instead of relying strictly on word of mouth from other parents. Parents can visit the district website to learn about the schools and all of the testing procedures for acceptance into the magnet program.
“I always tell parents to look into the schools,” Scruggs said. “So many listen to what other people tell them. They need to go see the schools — dive into it and see what they have done and accomplished.”
Harris offered the following advice for parents who might be on the fence.
“Give it a chance,” she said. “Turn in an application and get tested. It doesn’t cost anything. You can make a decision later.
“The magnet program was created to give parents choice. It’s another choice and an opportunity to do something different if a parent would like that. I just think if you want a great education for the child and want them in an environment where they can think critically, problem solve and be involved with different themes that enable the child to thrive, then magnet schools are the place for you.”
If parents do choose to apply, Scruggs offered this advice.
“Be a good parent,” she said. “Read to them. Give them life experiences. Do what you should do as a parent. That’s what’s going to make them successful.”