February 19, 2018
School & Youth
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Magnet Schools? What Are Those?

Sharon Mager
View Bio
November 10, 2017

Students who are entering sixth or ninth grade next year who are interested in science, math, engineering, visual arts or international studies have a unique learning opportunity with the Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) magnet program, which offers concentrated studies in selected fields. The first magnet school program began more than a decade ago, and since then, interest has soared.

“Each year, we’ve had more and more kids interested,” said Susan Lewis, a counselor at Riviera Beach Elementary School. “In addition to concentrated learning, students are introduced to a whole new social climate. It’s a lot of hands-on learning and field trips, and it’s engaging. It’s also a great opportunity to make new friends.”

As explained by AACPS teacher specialist Joseph Wieczorek, magnet schools offer the same core subjects as all county public schools, but students receive additional education, training and opportunities in their chosen area of interest. They also have after-school and extracurricular activities available.

Students may choose from specializations such as international baccalaureate (IB); science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and performing and visual arts (PVA). Magnet programs are available for middle and high school students.

The IB program teaches children about global interests and encourages them to be involved in their local and global communities as they learn to be critical and independent learners. The study includes learning two foreign languages.

In the STEM schools, students explore the diverse technological subjects and are encouraged to work both individually and in teams. In high school, their work is project based and they are required to work on internships with local colleges and STEM professionals. Additionally, Glen Burnie High School hosts a specialized biomedical allied health program.

PVA students concentrate on either instrumental or vocal music, dance, creative writing, drama, or visual arts.

“The STEM biomedical magnet courses at Glen Burnie High School sound like college courses,” Wieczorek said. The beauty, he continued, is that students get to explore the subjects in depth before paying the money and spending time at college. “The real value is you get to study this and know whether you really like it or not,” he said.

Another benefit, he said, is that students are stepping out into a whole new world. Everything is different. “Say you’ve never left Pasadena and you opt out to go to a magnet school in Millersville,” he said. “It’s a whole different group of kids.” Many of those new kids will share the same educational and artistic passions.

Lewis pointed out that magnet schools also offer unique learning opportunities. “A typical classroom may not work for everyone,” she said. “Every student learns differently. If they can find something they’re interested in, we’re hoping they’ll be more engaged in class and hope it will lead to a job or career they want to pursue.”

She said she’s heard no negatives about the magnet school experience. There are some students, however, who are very involved in sports who choose not to go to a magnet school due to the time commitment involved with the extracurricular activities and the transportation.

The bottom line is that “students have another option,” per Wieczorek. “It’s amazing how much is offered to students that didn’t exist years ago,” he said.

Magnet school applications are being accepted now through November 30. The program is free. Students are chosen based on their school records and grades. Performing arts applicants must audition. Openings are limited. Once seats are filled, those qualified will go on a waiting list and are chosen by lottery. For more detailed information, visit www.aacps.org/magnet.

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