U-46 board approves contract for certification of magnet schools
The Elgin Area School District U-46 school board Monday night approved a two-year contract for $44,700 with the nonprofit association Magnet Schools of America to help transform its five high school academies into unique, certified magnet programs.
Officials are researching the selection criteria for magnet academies and developing curriculum for those programs: STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at Bartlett, Gifted/International Baccalaureate Studies at Elgin, Visual and Performing Arts at Larkin, Beacon Academy of Media and Digital Arts at South Elgin, and World Language and International Studies at Streamwood.
"Our magnet school courses will be moving to semesterlong courses in the 2021 school year," said Kinasha Brown, director of career pathways.
Officials also provided an update on plans to offer five new college and career academies, or smaller learning communities, at each of the high schools beginning with the freshman class of 2021-22. Those academies would focus on the arts, humanities, liberal arts, business and STEM.
Each new academy would house multiple educational pathways, some offered at all schools and others unique to one or two buildings based on site or equipment requirements. Students would have the opportunity to explore a field of interest as elective courses their sophomore, junior and senior years while taking core classes and meeting rigorous college admission requirements. They also could earn industry certification, dual credit through a partnership with Elgin Community College and gain internship experience.
Students would have access to pathways -- such as welding or precision manufacturing -- even if they are not housed at their home schools.
Brown said the STEM academy would offer the most career pathways, while the liberal arts academy would be available to students who want a more traditional high school model. Though specific pathway courses haven't been finalized, officials have begun writing the freshmen seminar course that will be available to all ninth-graders, she added.
To help students prepare for entering high school academies, the district hosted roughly 2,700 eighth-graders at its Explore career fair last September at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates. This year's career fair is set for Sept. 11 and eighth-grade parents can visit with industry exhibitors and inquire about high school courses and magnet academies from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10.
There also will be parent engagement sessions this spring to share news about the educational pathways programs, officials said.