Magnet schools

Magnet schools


by Carolyn Holly

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBCarolyn


Posted on February 2, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 5:12 PM

Idaho magnet schools
Magnet schools in Idaho:
Estimated enrollment:
Specialized programs, small class sizes, social acceptance
Limited space

BOISE -- Magnet schools are similar to charter schools, but they have a specific focus.  While charter schools are self-governed outside of the local school district, magnet schools operate within the district system.

Some magnet schools run like a typical school, where students attend class all day in one building.  They can also be a specialized program where students take buses from their public school for special classes in math, art, language or a number of other subjects.  All of it is paid for by taxpayers.

There are 20 full-time magnet schools in Idaho.  Seven of those are in the Treasure Valley.

For example, New Horizons is a dual language magnet school in the Nampa school district serving students in kindergarten though 5th grade.

Galileo is a math and science magnet school in the Meridian school district with students from kindergarten through 8th grade.

As the Meridian school district describes it, "A magnet school is a school of choice, or a school within a school, designed around a unique instructional approach, area of emphasis, student population, even the school calendar."

One of Boise's magnet schools is the Treasure Valley Mathematics and Science Center.  It is located inside Riverglen Junior High School, on the top floor of the building.  At this school, students are intense about their education.

Sierra Knowles is a student at the school.  She is 10-years-old and is doing the work of the 8th and 9th graders.  At just 10, she already knows she wants to be a bio-medical engineer when she is older.

Sierra's brother, Logan, is interested in the aerospace industry and he has already earned an internship.

"I'm working at Boise State University on a micro-ion-thruster project," explained Logan.  "The goal is to develop small ion-thrusters to maneuver and pivot satellites in space."

Students test in order to get into the Treasure Valley Math and Science Center.  They work in small class sizes, work with each other and work towards being the best in the specialized classes like high academic math, science, technology and research, which are only offered at magnet schools.

Gerardo Rodriguez is a magnet school student.  He has a 4.75 grade point average.  Luke Harmon-Vellotti is the youngest student to ever enroll.  He was eight when he began at the school and is now 13.  At 13, he could graduate next year and go onto college with his 17-year-old brother, Carl.

The students say they enjoy the magnet schools because they can be smart without being made fun of.  Their principal backs that up.

"There's a lot of peer pressure especially at the junior high level, a certain extent at the high school level for students not to be strong academics especially in the math and science world," said Dr. Holly MacLean, TVMSC Principal.  "You know, the whole label of nerd and geek that carries a negative connotation outside of our school.  In here we embrace it. We wear it with pride."

"Here, you can just be whoever you want to be.  And I think that is one of the strongest things," Dr. MacLean continued.  "And being in a school where everyone is intelligent it makes you want to
be, it makes you want to try harder."

"You are with other kids who wish to learn. So that's one of the differences," explained Julie Knowles, Sierra and Logan's mother.  "You don't have groups of people distracting. You all want to kinda learn and you are all similar."

It is an attraction where demand is high, but space is not.  Each year, anywhere from 100 to 125 students are turned away from magnet schools.

"We've got room for growth, should the environment, the economic environment change," said Dr. MacLean.  "But it also means that the students who do come in, they know that they have worked hard to get into the school.  They know they are here for a purpose and that also helps make this a dynamic focused learning environment."

You may be asking, 'How does a parent determine if a specialized school like this would be a good fit for their child?'  We posed that question to a mother who has three kids here.

"It was not easy," answered Knowles.  "We contacted the district and you basically make a list and see what's best for your child.  We have done GATE.  We have done Boise Classical. We have done Base Schools.  We've done the GATE where you are transported to and from school and the fit just wasn't there.  We heard through Micron Technology that there was TVMSC available to the students and it had to do with math and science and our kids truly enjoyed math and science.  They thrived in it.  So that's how we knew."

She knows they made the right choice, "The result is kids who want to learn, get good grades and be applauded for it.  So being with kids that accept knowledge is the greatest gift you can give them."

Micron, Hewlett-Packard, and other local companies helped start the Treasure Valley Mathematics and Sciences Center.  Their support continues to help the magnet school expand each year. 

If a student tests into the school and there is not enough room, they are put on a waiting list.  Not all magnet schools require testing.