Proposal calls for magnet program at Wichita’s new Southeast High

The Wichita school board will consider a proposal to make the new Southeast High School a magnet school. (Feb. 21, 2016)
The Wichita school board will consider a proposal to make the new Southeast High School a magnet school. (Feb. 21, 2016) File photo

Wichita’s new Southeast High School would become a neighborhood magnet school shortly after opening under a proposal being developed to capture federal grant money.

School board members will consider a resolution Monday to establish the Southeast College and Career Preparatory Magnet as part of a plan to once again seek a grant aimed at reducing minority isolation in schools.

This is the third time the district will apply for a grant – up to $12 million over three years – under the federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program. The program requires districts to establish new magnet themes or significantly revise existing ones to attract a wider cross-section of students.

Southeast principal Lori Doyle said her school, which will open this fall in a new $60 million building at 127th Street East and Pawnee, plans to re-invent itself as a campus focused on preparing students for college and the workforce.

Plans call for establishing four “schools” within Southeast, each focused on a different career category: a school of performance art; a school of entrepreneurship and communication; a school of civic leadership; and a school of science, technology, engineering and math, which would include new courses in agriculture and agribusiness.

“We want our building to ooze college and career info to our students and our parents,” Doyle said.

“The timing was perfect. … We really are kind of building on some of the things we have, and then there’s a new direction that we wanted to focus on.”

Neighborhood magnet

Unlike Northeast Magnet High, which fills slots based on a random citywide lottery, the new Southeast would be a neighborhood magnet, serving students within the Southeast attendance boundaries but offering spots as available to students outside the boundaries.

Outside students would apply to the new Southeast through the district’s special-transfer process, not the magnet office, and would be responsible for their own transportation, Doyle said.

According to the resolution Wichita school board members will consider on Monday, the grant application also will require new magnet themes at four other Wichita schools.

▪ Enders Community Service Magnet, 3030 S. Osage, would become Enders STEM and Leadership Magnet.

▪ Hyde International Studies and Communications Magnet, 210 N. Oliver, would become Hyde Leadership and International Explorations Magnet.

▪ Woodland Health and Wellness Magnet, 1705 Salina, would become Woodland STEM Magnet (Leaders in Health and Wellness).

▪ Gordon Parks Academy International Bacculaureate World School, 2201 E. 25th St. North, would become Gordon Parks Leadership and College Preparatory Magnet (an IB World Magnet).

Wichita was awarded a $2.1 million grant in 2010 to boost programs and increase diversity at Mueller Aerospace and Engineering Discovery Magnet.

In 2013, the district was awarded $12 million to expand programs at five more schools: Brooks Middle School, Jardine Middle School, Buckner Elementary, L’Ouverture Elementary and Spaght Elementary.

The grants are intended to encourage integration in the wake of forced busing by attracting a wider cross-section of students to schools in economically disadvantaged or racially isolated areas.

According to the proposed resolution, the district “has a responsibility to advocate for our children’s education by actively supporting the improvement of the District’s public education system, including its magnet schools.”

The resolution goes on to say that magnet schools “have been an effective tool in the management of school capacity, while enhancing cultural diversity.”

Schools less diverse

A recent report by The Eagle showed that several Wichita schools are less diverse since the district ended mandatory busing for integration seven years ago, despite efforts to ramp up its magnets.

Nearly a quarter of Wichita’s 85 schools are considered single race in that they have 60 percent or more of students of one race, according to district data. Several schools in predominantly African-American neighborhoods – including Adams, L’Ouverture, Mueller and Spaght elementary schools – have lost the racial balance they once achieved through forced busing.

Southeast High School, one of the most evenly diverse schools in the district, has struggled in recent years to attract and keep students. Southeast has the highest transfer rate of any high school in Wichita, with nearly a third of students who live within the Southeast boundaries opting for other schools – public, private, e-schools or home schools.

Doyle, the principal, said the new building and magnet focus – not to mention additional funding, should the district land the federal grant – could reinvigorate the school.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “A great opportunity for our kids and our families.”

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