Middle Schools Consortium Funded by Federal Grant

September 22, 2004
A series of committee meetings is under way to provide community input on creating choice areas for a student choice assignment plan for Argyle, Parkland and Belt middle schools, following receipt of a $7.2 million federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The three-year grant will facilitate creation of the Middle Schools Magnet Consortium at the three schools and will bring three new magnet themes to the schools that will run through all of the courses. Students at the three schools will participate in a choice process, similar in concept to the Northeast and Downcounty consortia.

Although the magnet programs at the three schools will be available to all students in the county who will be entering sixth grade next year, transportation will be provided only to students who are within the choice area for Belt, Argyle and Parkland, and for students who reside in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Walter Johnson and Rockville clusters. North Bethesda, Tilden, Westland and E. B. Wood middle school clusters were selected to be included in the areas for which transportation is provided due to their proximity to the new magnet middle schools.

Students can apply by January 28, 2005, for the programs, which will begin in fall 2005.

Argyle Middle School will be the home of the Magnet Academy for Information Technologies. Belt Middle School will have the Magnet Academy for Creative Arts in Performance and Communication. Parkland Middle School will have the Magnet Academy for Aerospace, Satellite and Robotic Technologies.

All students at Argyle, Belt and Parkland will participate in their school's "whole school" magnet program. For example, at Argyle, the theme of Information Technologies will run through all of the content courses.

Each of the three programs will share a number of common elements, including rigorous instructional programs and cross-curricular connections. Each program will have a real-life, problem-solving approach, grade-level instructional teams, and extended and flexible instructional classes.

Problem-based investigations in each academy will culminate with a "capstone" experience supported by business community partners. The academies also will establish partnerships with businesses as well as local colleges and universities.

Community input

MCPS is seeking community input as it evaluates options to create choice areas for the student assignment plan for Argyle, Belt and Parkland middle schools. The study is limited in scope to the feeder elementary schools of Argyle Middle School (Bel Pre, Strathmore and Georgian Forest) and Parkland Middle School (Brookhaven, Harmony Hills, Viers Mill, Weller Road and Wheaton Woods). Belt Middle School is not yet open, and its feeder schools are incorporated within the current Parkland Middle School service area.

Representatives from each of these elementary schools, as well as from Argyle and Parkland, will participate in the study process. No elementary school boundaries or high school base areas will be changed as a result of the process.

A series of meetings has been scheduled with community representatives to obtain input on the development of the choice area options. In addition, a September 20 community information meeting was held at Parkland Middle School to provide the general public with an overview of the process. A second community information meeting will be conducted near the end of the process, on October 4, at Parkland Middle School from 7:30-9 p.m.

A report, incorporating evaluations of options by committee members and any position papers submitted by individual school PTAs, will be provided to Superintendent Jerry D. Weast on October 8.

The superintendent will make his recommendations to the Board of Education on October 15. Following a November 3 Board work session and November 10 and 11 public hearings, the Board will take action on November 18.

For more information, contact Erick Lang, project director for the Middle Schools Magnet Consortium, at 301-649-8081.

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