Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MAGNET SCHOOLS; Spread the Success

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

MAGNET SCHOOLS; Spread the Success

Article excerpt

Fourth in a series on major issues facing the Duval County public schools.

Sometimes in education, "magic happens."

Those are the words of Sally Hague, school choice director for the Duval County public schools.

She has seen magnet schools increase the integration of the races, improve quality, create a sense of excitement and revitalize schools that were on the verge of closing.

She has seen the federal government give a vote of confidence to Duval's magnet program with more than $20 million in grants.

What's the secret?

"The beauty of a magnet school provides a mission and a focus to a school," she said. "Everybody in the school buys into it."

A magnet program can turn an old school into a new one, even without a new building.

Educational quality offered by magnets attract students from across the county. And diversity is a factor for a global economy.

INSPIRING SUCCESS

A dramatic story can be found at Inspirations Village, a collection of four core-city elementary schools.

These schools - Brentwood, R.L. Brown, John E. Ford and Andrew Robinson - have been involved in a new arrangement.

The schools are less than 3 miles apart from each other. There is one zone that includes all four schools. Residents can attend any of the four schools. There is even shuttle service from school to school.

Each of the schools is a magnet with differing themes.

The result: There once were several hundred empty seats in several of the schools. Now there are waiting lists.

SOME DON'T WORK

Not all magnet programs survive.

Some are dropped because the school is naturally integrated without magnet students, such as Hendricks Avenue Elementary.

Some have difficulty attracting students because they are not convenient for transportation. Hague said schools tend to do better when located near a major road. …

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