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Magnet program for Natchez-Adams School District in planning stages

NATCHEZ — When the Natchez-Adams School District handed Superintendent Frederick Hill lemons he wanted to make lemonade.

The lemon — a structurally unsound Robert Lewis Middle School — is scheduled to be lemonade — a magnet program with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics — by the next school year.

“When I was interviewing for the superintendent position they actually asked me about a magnet program, and I told them I’d like to look at implementing one of those programs here because I’d already had some experience with them in the past,” Hill said. “I think that kind of sparked their interest and got the ball rolling.”

The NASD Board of Trustees voted earlier this year to reorganize the entire school district, leaving RLMS closed for the 2012-2013 school year for renovations.

While the decision was made before Hill came on board in July, he said it was the right one to make for the district.

“The Robert Lewis building is a perfect opportunity to bring in a magnet program, mainly because we’re not having to bring in the added cost of a new building,” Hill said. “There are some necessary repairs needed to the first-floor ceiling and the second-floor’s floor, but those can be done in the time span to open by next year.”

“Now it’s just a matter of putting pen to paper and making a plan.”

That plan includes everything from advertising for bids for the roofing contractors to creating a steering committee to seek input on the program’s future.

“The first step is to put some kind of general plan together and take it before the board to receive approval to open for the 2013-2014 school year,” Hill said. “Once we have all that done and can start with the renovations, we’ll be surveying parents, students, local employers and really any stakeholders within the community to see what they want to see from this program.”

Getting input from local employers and industry professionals is especially important, Hill said, if the program is to live up to its planned expectations.

“We’re still stuck in the old comprehensive high school model that was popular 50 or 60 years ago and was producing employees for factory jobs,” Hill said. “Now the job industry wants creative thinkers, not just that ordinary person.

“So we want to create an atmosphere for creative collaboration that reflects what the work place looks like.”

Until any plans are made and the board of trustees makes any approvals, RLMS will still be used at some capacities, Hill said.

“All of Morgantown athletics will be held at Robert Lewis all year long, and we’ll start doing some inventory there at the school,” Hill said. “It’s still just like any other school in the district — the utilities are still on.”

The district will decide in the coming year if the magnet program will be for grades kindergarten through fifth or sixth through 12th.