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District considering magnet campus for the arts

Lake Havasu Unified School District is considering transitioning one of its smaller campuses into a magnet school this fall.

Although the transformation would begin in a few elementary school classrooms, district officials envision the magnet concept to become a campus-wide program in the future. The school site has not been determined.

Magnet schools are a product of the 1960s. They are based on the premise that all students do not learn in the same way, according to Superintedent Diana Asseier. The school curriculum centers on a unifying theme such as visual and performing arts, leadership, athletics and sportsmanship, duel emersion and technology.

This year, a district administrative team has worked to determine what type of magnet school would best suit Havasu’s students, Asseier said.

“We looked at what are students not getting currently in our schools,” she said. “After a lot of discussion we felt the thing we were not offering was a classical magnet approach.”

Asseier said while nothing is set in stone it possibly would be kindergarten and first-grade classrooms to start with other grades phased on over time. Asseier added that although becoming a true K-12 magnet school could be a possibility, funding and the lack of facilities for the upper grades such as science labs are limiting factors.

To gauge support, the district has sent out a survey to parents, teachers, staff and community members. Based on support, the district may keep the magnet approach in the selected classrooms; however, it would like to see it rolled out to the entire school.

If the district does move forward, its magnet school could mirror what is done at the Temecula Preparatory School in Temecula, Calif.

Its curriculum is “virtue centric” and based upon the four classical virtues articulated by Greek philosopher Plato of justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude.

The curriculum utilizes the classical model of education which inspires students how to think versus what to think. The classical model is based on grammar, logic and rhetoric.

“The idea is that you need to teach very specific skills that students need such as grammar and spelling and writing – all of the basic skills – which is the foundation that can be applied in school and in life through the rich history of classical literature,” Asseier said.

In a classical magnet school, instruction is ordered and presented in a respectful environment, where a distraction-free classroom is required.

Faculty, staff, and administrators would be expected to teach and model core virtues such as courage, humility, truth-seeking, tenacity and self-control.

There will be a content-rich liberal arts curriculum with a back-to-basics approach. Spelling counts, English grammar is taught, manners matter and hard work is expected.

“Through this curriculum we would do things like use the great stories, poetry, primary source documents in history, focus on conceptual math and explore the physical world through science,” Asseier said. “The teaching style is a more direct type of instruction with students questioning to deepen their critical thinking skills.”

There would be significant emphasis on phonics-based reading, spelling, grammar and vocabulary with memory work, recitation and public speaking cultivated through practice.

Standardized testing will not drive the curriculum.

“We typically isolate subjects and don’t link them together,” Asseier said. “True education is a matter of development over time. Students get individualized attention but always within a common, one-track curriculum. Everybody is learning the same thing and has the opportunity to think about what is being taught.”

Another shift away from a traditional elementary school classroom is that Latin would be introduced in fourth and fifth grade and mandatory in sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades.

by David Louis, Today's News-Herald*
Jan 19, 2018

*used with permission

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