School board implements new magnet program

Allison B. Hudson

Beginning next school year, the Ascension Parish School board will implement a new Westside magnet program designed to improve student achievement.

“The Westside Magnet Program will give Donaldsonville parents and students more viable choices for the new school year,” Superintendent Patrice Pujol said.

The program is selective and will create a “school within the schools,” said Public Information Officer Johnnie Balfantz.

The program is exclusive to Donaldsonville Primary, Lowery Elementary, Lowery Middle, and Donaldsonville High Schools.

To become eligible for the program, students and parents must sign a commitment to agree to the more rigorous curriculum and work expectations that will be part of the program.

“The Westside Magnet Program will give Donaldsonville parents and students more viable choices for the new school year,” said Superintendent Pujol.

Pujol advised that applications and invitations would be mailed to students who may be eligible for the program on June 11.

Those students who will be first considered for admission to the Westside Magnet Program must meet three of the four following criteria and agree to the program commitment, must have a 3.0 grade point average achieved, proficiency on the most recent district and state standardized test, receive a Teacher’s Recommendation, and/or must have an excellent school attendance history.

Pujol explained that if after the first level of admissions have extra slots available, then a second level of admissions will be offered to those who meet two of the four criteria’s noted. If admission requests exceed available space, then selections will be determined through a lottery.

“I am very pleased with the staff and the leadership teams at each school for being willing to create another strong option for parents to choose. We must continue to be highly competitive if we are going to prepare our students for success in the 21st century." Pujol said. “As always, Ascension Parish Public Schools is firmly committed to giving ALL of our students the best opportunities for optimal learning."

Pujol noted that one of the most exciting elements of learning for each magnet student will be increased access to computer technology with a one-to-one computing environment in grades 3-12.

Students will have computers to use during each class period, and teachers working within the program are receiving intensive professional development on computer-based learning. Students in grades 4-12 will take computers home for enhanced academic studies, Pujol indicated.

Additional benefits announced as part of the magnet program include advanced software and virtual learning opportunities. Students will have greater access to courses for college and career readiness, accelerated learning opportunities, including the FastForward reading program, and greater opportunities to earn high school credit while in middle school and college credit while in high school. The focus on college and career readiness will begin in the early grades with a priority on more complex reading, writing, and critical thinking across all subjects. The program will also offer extended time for preK-5th grades.

"We anticipate the program to begin with great enthusiasm and to grow quickly," Pujol said. "We are ready for the challenge."

For more information on the Westside Magnet Program, parents are encouraged to visit www.apsb.org/magnet or contact their child’s school principal.