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Magnet program to open at Oro Grande

A magnet school will begin at Oro Grande Elementary School this fall, offering an alternative to traditional education paths.

According to school officials, it may be the Lake Havasu Unified School District’s answer to an increasing interest in charter schools and private campuses.

Oro Grande is the southernmost of Havasu’s seven elementary schools, about six miles from the city’s center. With an increasing student population in the north of Havasu, the magnet school would mean a longer commute for many parents willing to enroll their children in such a program.

“Oro Grande is our smallest school,” said Lake Havasu Unified School District Superintendent Diana Asseier. “Right now our population is shifting north, and there’s plenty of room for attracting parents with new students. We’re also hoping that parents of existing students are interested in enrolling their children as well.”

Competition with Havasu’s charter and private schools will mean introducing a fresh perspective, and a new way of presenting lessons. According to Asseier, this is the school district’s first chance to offer students a classical education.

“We hope everyone understands that when we talk about incorporating a program like this, we want to increase student enrollment and balance our schools,” Asseier said. “We want to give parents more options. I think teachers understand … this is the beginning point to attracting new students. We have to start somewhere.”

The magnet school program will operate under a $150,000 budget at Oro Grande Elementary School. According to Asseier, the curriculum emphasizes grammar, logic and rhetoric. The program will begin with one class in kindergarten and one in the first grade, adding more grade levels as students advance, according to the district’s proposal to parents.

“In grade school, they teach basic knowledge, basic lessons … the magnet school will cultivate virtues: principles that people need to learn as children. It will focus on traditional American values.”

The curriculum will include courses in American history, world history and classical history, separated by grade level. Math courses will incorporate lessons using “Singapore mathematics,” which involves the use of physical objects, drawn figures and abstract numbers as aids in learning.

Enrollment continues to follow a downward trend at Havasu schools, with families either moving away or electing to enroll their children in one of several Havasu charter schools. The Lake Havasu Unified School District has competition, officials say, but a magnet school could be the answer.

More than 350 Havasu residents responded to a districtwide survey about the concept of a magnet school this school year, with about 70 percent of parents saying they would be interested in enrolling their children in such a program. That might not be easy, however.

The school district will use its budget in purchasing materials, training and textbooks from the Core Knowledge Foundation. While much of the curriculum from Core Knowledge is free, Asseier said, the school district expects to use a portion of its budget to purchase additional resources from the Foundation.

According to Mohave County School Superintendent Mike File, school districts in Kingman and Bullhead City have implemented magnet school programs of their own. While those programs primarily serve high school students, they have gained substantial popularity among parents.

“They’ve had a lot of success,” File said. “They teach life skills, helping kids learn how to function in society. A lot of teachers like teaching in those settings. They don’t have the large classroom sizes of normal schools, and they get more one-on-one time with students.”

For more information about Havasu’s planned magnet school, contact the Lake Havasu Unified School District office at (928) 505-6900.

 

(by Brandon Messick, Today's News Herald - Apr 11, 2018)

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