New magnet programs to be implemented in Montgomery County

Jan. 21, 2006, midnight | By Payal Patnaik | 18 years, 5 months ago

Poolesville High School to execute new Humanities and Science, Math and Technology Program

This fall, Poolesville High School will become one of the three highly rigorous instructional programs in Montgomery County, according to MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast, joining the Science, Mathematics and Computer Science Magnet Program at Blair and the International Baccalaureate Program at Richard Montgomery.

Weast announced in November that Poolesville High School will revise its current Global Ecology Magnet Program into one that models both the Magnet and the Communication Arts Program at Blair. As of now, the number of students that will be accepted into the program is undetermined and will be released on Feb. 9.

The opening of the new Poolesville Magnet marks a trend of increasing magnet schools in the county. Three years ago, a new magnet program opened at Roberto Clemente Middle School, joining the magnet programs at Takoma Park and Eastern middle schools. This year, the competition will become more selective, with three magnet programs releasing 300 students, as well as other applicants from non-magnet schools, to the 200 available spots in the Blair Magnet and the IB program.

Opening a new magnet program would enable more students to have a chance to partake in another competitive program with a curriculum based on Blair's. In a letter to parents, Weast wrote, "The creation of this upcounty magnet will provide more students with the opportunity to participate in a highly rigorous and challenging academic experience."

MCPS aims to expand the number of opportunities for students to participate in magnet programs in response to Montgomery County's growing population, which has doubled since the inception of the IB Program and Blair Magnet. Meeting its goals of increasing the rigor in its schools, MCPS aims to open a new magnet to decrease the selectiveness of admission into these all-county programs. According to Magnet Coordinator Eileen Steinkraus, this year, 719 students are vying to be accepted to the Blair Magnet's 100 openings.

Poolesville will keep its current Global Ecology program, adding the Blair Magnet curriculum for its science magnet and Blair's CAP program for its Humanities program. Billie Bradshaw, the Director of Global Ecology Studies, said, "Global ecology will remain intact, there aren't any major changes being made to the program yet. It will still be a steel-based program at Poolesville High School."

According to Bradshaw, Weast has mandated that next year only upcounty students can apply to Poolesville's magnet and only downcounty students can apply to Blair's magnet. Students from the entire county will still be allowed to apply to the IB program at Richard Montgomery.

This year, students from all over the county can still apply to both Richard Montgomery's IB Program and Blair's magnet program since the decision to open a new magnet program came too late, Steinkraus said.

Magnet chemistry teacher Tran Pham believes that although a new program can have a curriculum to match Blair's, it may at first have trouble finding highly specialized staff to foster the analysis and understanding needed at a magnet program like Blair's.

Steinkraus agreed. "It is always challenging to find a staff with a high level class and specialty, those people who could make more money at a private industry, as opposed to at a lower level class where it wouldn't be as difficult," she said.

Until Poolesville's new magnet is fully implemented and its feeder schools decided by the county, Steinkraus cannot predict its effect on Blair's curriculum or prestige. "We just have to see what impact it will have once they decide the schools," she said.

The students living in the following clusters will be able to apply to the Poolesville magnet this year: Clarksburg, Damascus, Gaithersburg, Col. Zadok Magruder, Northwest, Poolesville, Quince Orchard, Seneca Valley and Watkins Mill.

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