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Magnet school to send out letters today

NATCHEZ — Letters of acceptance will begin arriving today for students approved to attend the new magnet school in the Natchez-Adams School District.

The Robert Lewis Magnet School for STEM — or science, technology, engineering and math — is slated to open this fall to 125 sixth-grade students.

Principal Zandra McDonald said the district received 140 applications by the May 10 deadline and hinted the school might extend the number of students it was expected to allow attend.

“Well, we were only taking 125 students, but there might be a surprise in store for the additional students,” McDonald said. “We haven’t made anything official yet, but there might be some surprises come (today).”

Part of the admission process required an interview of both the child and the parents or guardians, and McDonald said she was pleasantly surprised during the interview process.

“One of the things I asked everyone was, ‘Whose decision was it to apply yours or your parents?’ and more than 80 percent of the kids said it was their decision,” McDonald said. “I was impressed at how excited the kids were about getting here and learning.”

Parents of applicants had to agree to work a minimum of 10 volunteer hours per school year.

“The parents need to be just as involved as the students,” McDonald said. “That can be either Parent Teacher Association (PTA), working on student presentations or spearheading different school projects.”

The school will offer an applied learning curriculum that encourages children to learn through project-based learning and apply what they’ve learned to real world situations.

“Whatever these students learn, we want them to be able to take that and be able to apply it to what they’ll be doing outside of school,” McDonald said. “Some of them might go on to college or a vocational school, but they’ll learn how to apply the curriculum to real-life situations outside the classroom.”

McDonald said each class will consist of 15 to 20 students who will rotate through a block schedule of one-hour- and-15-minute classes.

“The teachers can be flexible, so if one group is working on one project, they can stay longer at one class,” she said. “Our next step now is to interview teachers and get some professional development started.”

The school will hire six teaching positions, an office administrator and a guidance counselor.

McDonald said she hopes to have all teachers hired and in the school by early July to host summer events for the children attending the school in the fall.

“We’re trying to plan a summer science camp to get the kids ready for school,” McDonald said. “My to-do list is getting longer every day, but we’re just as excited as the students.”

The first day for all Natchez-Adams schools is Aug. 19.