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High School magnet program vote nears

RESERVE — St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools is one step away from launching a magnet high school program for August, serving grades eighth, ninth and 10th before expanding in subsequent academic years.

The School Board’s executive committee unanimously approved an administration-led proposal Wednesday, setting the stage for a final-approval vote next week when the full board meets in regular session.

Under terms outlined Wednesday, the restricted admissions program would focus on STEM education — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Superintendent Kevin George said the program is modeled after successful efforts in other school districts and the result of intense planning and consultation.

Kevin George

“Year one, because this is a short turnaround and time frame, we want to keep it at a manageable number and make sure we can service the kids we have in the program,” George said. “Year one, let’s go 60 students per grade level, then we can determine throughout the year what we want that number to be in year two.”

Not to be confused with an ongoing charter school effort by Louisiana Premiere Charter School, the magnet program would be open to any student who lives within the School District and includes a selective-admissions policy.

A site for the new school has not been determined, but the campuses of East St. John Preparatory and Leon Godchaux Junior High have been mentioned.

Tentative entrance criteria include one of the following:

• Mastery or advanced on math or science eighth grade assessment

• Good or excellent on any of the following end of course exams: algebra 1, geometry or biology

• Combined 3.0 final grade point average in math and science the previous school year

• Classified as gifted according to IDEA regulations

• Magnet program completed at either John L. Ory or Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science magnet schools

School Board President Ali Burl III said many students who complete elementary school at John L. Ory in LaPlace are not continuing onto public high school, a trend he would like to see reversed.

Ali Burl III

“We wanted to try to do something that would be more attractive,” Burl said. “You would still offer a quality education at a free price. It would benefit the families to where they wouldn’t have to pay for a private (high school) tuition. We’re figuring if parents are willing to send their children to (public) elementary schools, if you had a quality high school that is performing at a top level, they would stay in parish.”

Before ultimately voting in favor of the proposal, School Board Member Patrick H. Sanders expressed some caution about the magnet program, suggesting the District’s two existing high schools — East St. John High and West St. John High — should be performing well enough to attract students and families on their own.

Finance Director Felix Boughton said a successful magnet program attracts students from leaving St. John Public Schools, attracts others not currently attending district schools and offers an alternative to parents interested in sending their children to the proposed charter school.