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Education News

New Magnet Policy Will Create Online Application For Students

Magnet schools started in the 1970s as a way to desegregate classrooms. Now they're known for special academic programs, like the visual arts or health sciences. In the Houston Independent School District, the board has approved a new way to manage those programs.

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Usually changes in school board policy elicit more yawns than jubilation.

But when the HISD board adopted a new magnet policy at its meeting Thursday night Board President Anna Eastman couldn’t help but cheer.

“Whoooo! Ok we finally passed a magnet policy. That has taken a large portion of my term on the board. Sorry for that. I couldn’t help it.”

Eastman has three children in magnet schools. So she knows from personal experience the application process can be tedious. Now there will be a new online application.

“Hopefully we’re going to have a more streamlined application process to make it accessible to more people. Right now it’s really onerous, the paperwork that you have to fill out and copy – a lot of people want to drive the applications to schools to ensure that they’re received.”

Top magnets draw a lot of demand. Pin Oak Middle School in Bellaire gets more than 2,000 applications for 350 seats.

The new policy sets goals for magnets to enroll students from outside the school’s attendance zone. Superintendent Terry Grier says magnets that don’t meet those goals could lose their status.

“The key is before you can call yourself a magnet, you have to have enough space to attract a certain number of kids out of your attendance zone.”

The new policy aims to fix another issue as well — funding. Lupita Hinojosa is the school services officer for HISD.

“Right now if you look at our magnets and the way the programs are funded. They’re different. There’s no real formula or system. And we want to ensure that each magnet — each theme — is funded equitably and adequately.”

The new policy will take effect in 2014. So it won’t impact students already enrolled or accepted in a magnet program.

 

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