Chapel Hill ISD students will have more educational options and additional opportunities for fine arts once the district reconfigures three campuses.
Superintendent Dr. Donni Cook said Chapel Hill ISD spent months looking at its current programs for prekindergarten through fifth grade and visited high-performing schools in the region.
The result, she said, was a new vision to reconfigure Jackson and Wise elementary schools, as well as Kissam Intermediate School.
She said in a district website video that the initiative will "provide an optimum structure for students to excel academically in a … community school setting" by attending Kissam, Jackson or a Wise fine arts magnet school.
Jackson, which currently serves pre-kindergarten through second grade, will serve prekindergarten through third grade next year, with project-based learning and dual-language courses, Dr. Cook said.
Kissam, which currently serves third through fifth grades, will serve second through fifth grades next year with project-based learning, dual-language classes and traditional classes. And at Wise, which is currently pre-kindergarten through second grade, 240 students in kindergarten through fifth grades are expected to be part of a fine arts magnet program next year, Dr. Cook said.
After a three-year transition, she said all three campuses will be pre-kindergarten through fifth grade or kindergarten through fifth grade, and Wise will be a complete magnet school with about 540 students on campus.
"We're just trying to provide the best possible learning environment for them," she said Friday.
She added, "The biggest motivation for all of this is ‘What can we do to make things better for our kids?'"
She said students, who transition to a new school during their elementary school years, can lose academic growth while adjusting to a new campus. Therefore, she said the district wants to remove that factor and provide more options for students and parents, including the magnet program, which will focus on fine arts.
The magnet school will offer courses such as physical education, music and art, but it also will have an enrichment area of fine arts whether it's through drama, public speaking or something else, Dr. Cook said. For instance, she said the district is looking for a way to incorporate dance.
Wise Principal Becky Chenevert said some students in the magnet program also could be involved in yearbook and do school announcements.
"When arts is an integral part (of school), it enhances learning for everyone, so we're looking forward to that," she said.
Dr. Cook said project-based learning includes real-world projects. For instance, she said a group at Jackson is Skyping with people in Mexico about monarch butterflies and their practices.
"Kids cannot wait to come to school when they're (doing) these projects," she said.
In the dual-language courses, Spanish speakers are learning English, and there are English speakers whose families want them to learn Spanish at a young age, she said.
Overall, Dr. Cook said the feedback on the reconfiguration has been positive.
Those who would like to apply for the Wise Elementary Fine Arts Magnet Program may pick up applications at Jackson, Wise or Kissam. More information on the initiative is also available at www.chapelhillisd.org.