Wichita wants five more schools to become STEM magnets

A representative for Brooks Middle School Center for STEM and the Arts, right, talks with students at Choices Fair in 2014.
A representative for Brooks Middle School Center for STEM and the Arts, right, talks with students at Choices Fair in 2014. File photo

Five more Wichita schools would become STEM magnets under a proposal being considered to capture federal grant money.

School board members will consider a plan Monday to seek a grant from the federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which aims to help districts better integrate schools by offering magnet programs that could attract a wider cross-section of students.

The district applied but was not awarded a similar grant last year. This year’s application calls for establishing new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) magnet themes at five Wichita schools:

▪ Enders Open Magnet Elementary, 3030 S. Osage, would become Enders STEM and Leadership Magnet.

▪ Gordon Parks Academy International Baccalaureate World School, 2201 E. 25th St. North, would become Gordon Parks Academy STEM Leaders in Applied and Media Arts.

▪ Marshall Middle School, 1510 N. Payne, would become Marshall STEM Academy Leaders in BioSMART (Biological Science, Math, Academic Rigor, Technology) Middle School.

▪ Woodland Health and Wellness Magnet Elementary, 1705 Salina, would become Woodland STEM Academy Leaders in BioScience.

▪ And Southeast High, 2641 S. 127th St. East, would become Southeast College and Career Preparatory Magnet.

Southeast would be a neighborhood magnet high school and offer four “schools” within the school, each focused on a different career category: performance art; entrepreneurship and communication; civic leadership; and STEM, which would include courses in agriculture and agribusiness.

The new STEM theme at Gordon Parks Academy, a K-8 school that opened in 2008, is part of a larger plan to drop the IB World program, raise test scores, attract more students and better integrate the struggling school.

This is the fourth time Wichita will apply for the federal magnet grant. If successful, the district will have a dozen schools with some STEM theme or overall mission.

In 2013, Wichita was awarded a three-year, $12 million grant to establish or enhance STEM programs at five schools: Brooks Middle School, Jardine Middle School, Buckner Elementary, L’Ouverture Elementary and Spaght Elementary.

Prior to that, grant funds helped transform Mueller Elementary, 2500 E. 18th St., into an aerospace and engineering magnet.

Another Wichita elementary – McLean Science and Technology Magnet, 2277 N. Marigold Lane – boasts one of the district’s original magnet programs.

A number of national reports have pointed to a need for more professionals and workers in STEM fields. The grants also are intended to encourage racial diversity in the wake of forced busing by attracting a wider cross-section of students to schools in economically disadvantaged or racially isolated areas.

Since the Wichita district ended its system of busing for integration, schools have become more racially isolated. Nearly a quarter of the district’s 85 schools are considered single race, in that they have 60 percent or more of students of one race.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias