Johnson Elementary slated to be magnet school by next year

Faculty have visited similar magnets in D.C., Minneapolis

STEAM will descend on Johnson School of the Arts beginning in fall 2015.

That’s when Cedar Rapids Community School District administrators plan to have the school ready to become the system’s first magnet school, with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math or “STEAM.”

“Johnson was always a front-runner in this conversation because of their history and their background,” said Associate Superintendent Trace Pickering, who will present the recommendation at the next Cedar Rapids School Board meeting Monday. “They met all the criteria and they’ve gone through something similar in the past. They have that experience we can build on.”

Pickering said the board will not vote Monday and the recommendation is more of an informational presentation.

“This has been something the board has wanted to see happen, innovative practices, particularly a magnet school,” he said. “We don’t anticipate any request to make huge adjustments.”

Members of the district’s School Improvement Advisory Committee recommended Johnson become a STEAM magnet school and work is already underway to transform the school, which has an arts designation, into a magnet school for the 2015-16 school year.

Faculty visited the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. A staff-wide excursion to Minneapolis to visit successful magnet schools is scheduled for Oct. 24, which the school board recently changed to become a full-release day for staff development.

According to Chris McGuire, a secretary in business services, $118,492 has been allocated in the district’s 2014-15 budget for work related to transitioning Johnson into a STEAM magnet. Pickering said those dollars cover the cost of those trips and well as professional development for staff and the fee for Doreen Marvin, president of the Magnet Schools of America, who is consulting with the district as administrators and staff navigate the change.

Johnson will remain open to all students in the school’s attendance zone, Pickering said, but families will have the option to send their students elsewhere. Administrators have not yet determined which district school or schools will receive those students. Other Cedar Rapids elementary students’ families will then be able to express interest in those vacated slots at Johnson.

“We would institute some form of equitable transparent lottery system if we were oversubscribed based on the number of seats available,” Pickering said.

Johnson will remain free for students to attend and will continue to be governed by the same rules as other district elementary schools, he noted.

The school may be the first magnet school in the district, but it might not be the last.

“We fully expect our magnet school to be successful and more and more parents wanting that as an option,” Pickering said. “I would anticipate opening more magnet schools in the future as the need and want call for it.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8273;

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.