Acceptance letters out; magnet school to draw from private schools, too

Published 12:04 am Saturday, June 23, 2012

VIDALIA — No one opened their envelope to find a golden ticket, but for parents of 120 students, a simple note from the school district meant a whole lot more.

Concordia Parish School District sent word this week to students who applied to a magnet school, which will have a math, science and technology focus for grades kindergarten to fifth and will be housed in the former Ridgecrest School site.

Since the program doesn’t rely on school district lines, but rather can draw students from the entire parish, applications from across the Miss-Lou flooded the district’s offices.

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Parents with children enrolled at Trinity Episcopal, Cathedral, Tensas Academy Holy Family and the various Concordia Parish schools were drawn at random from a lottery system.

Director of academic programs Paul Nelson said former Vidalia residents, who had since moved away, also applied for the program.

“We had a few from outside the state like Indiana and Texas that applied,” Nelson said. “Part of the process at the beginning of the year, will be the students and parents having to prove they reside in Concordia Parish.

“But they can apply, get accepted and then move to the area.”

In an effort to create a program with a 50/50 racial makeup, Nelson said the lottery was done in two parts — one for white students and one for minority students.

“The school is exactly 50 percent white, 50 percent minority,” Nelson said. “The lottery system went a lot smoother than I thought it would.”

The letters sent out to parents last week said that their child was selected, that their child wasn’t selected, but had been placed on a waiting list or that one of their children was selected and the other had been placed on a sibling waiting list.

Parents who received a selection letter will have until July 2 to reserve their children’s spot in the program.

“If I don’t hear from the parents, than I have to assume they’re vacating that spot,” Nelson said. “After that date, we’ll start filling in those spots with students on the waiting list — if we have any vacancies.”

Nelson said approximately 50 acceptance cards have already been mailed back, and he hopes to see the remainder in the mailbox soon.

After allocating all the open slots, Nelson said the students’ records will be transferred to the new school, and the rest will be left up to the program’s director Nancy Anders.

“She will send out a letter to parents in late July regarding school supplies, the first day of school, open house and all that,” Nelson said. “At that point, it will be up to Mrs. Anders.”

The program is partnering with Discovery Education for its digital science and other curriculum.

Students in the magnet program will continue wearing their current school uniforms for the first year.

Future plans of uniforms, logos, a mascot and school athletics will be decided as the school progresses, Nelson said.

“We really want the parents of the children attending to be involved in those decisions,” Nelson said. “So as the school progresses, we will have plenty of meetings and make all those decisions.”

The program will continue to grow as students in the higher grades advance, with the program eventually including kindergarten through 12th-grade students.

Students will be required to maintain a 2.5 GPA and keep good behavior and attendance records to remain enrolled in the program.