JPS School Board Set to Vote on Magnet School Plan

October 10, 2006 - Posted at 5:09 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Jonesboro Public School board members will be voting Tuesday night on whether or not to implement the district into a magnet school plan.  While it could mean a variety of different educational opportunities for students...there's still some question as to how and where students will be placed.

JPS has been investigating magnet schools since last spring...visiting campuses in Batesville, Hot Springs and Jackson, Tennessee.

"It's an exciting way for kids to learn, it's more of a hands on approach," said Superintendent Steve Singleton, "At all of the schools we visited, it's shown that they have decreased attendance problems.  Attendance is up and parent participation is up."

The magnet school plan would affect 2200 students, grades first through sixth.  Parents and students would have choice of themes on a first come first serve basis.

Magnet schools were originally started in the hope that their geographically open admissions would end racial segregation in "good" schools, and decrease de facto segregation of schools in poorer areas by offering a more enticing educational program. This continues to some extent today. Most magnet schools concentrate on a particular discipline or area of study, such as science and engineering, the humanities, or the fine arts or performing arts.

"The student and their parents will have the opportunity to apply to the theme that is the most interest to them and if it becomes necessary we will have a lottery system.  But we are very hopeful that based on the surveys and the feedback we get from our parents, we will be able to address those needs before hand and we will be able to meet people's first choice," said Dr. Kim Wilbanks, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary.

JPS does not anticipate any additional costs and does plan to pay for student transportation if a child lives outside of an attendance zone.

"The core curriculum would be the same as the state standard and so we would have the general curriculum that is offered in all schools.  But the overall theme of the school is  where the interest is for the students and what really perks up and is what everybody works on," said Singleton.

The school is also asking the board Tuesday for approval to apply for a federal grant to help fund the magnet school, which they hope to implement next school year.