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Grant Aids Magnet Schools for Arts

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The curtain will rise on Mississippi's first "magnet" schools for the arts late this fall or early next year in Jackson.

Funded by a three-year, $1.2-million federal desegregation grant, the arts program will be designed to attract students from all the Jackson public schools to three sites--one each for elementary, junior-high, and senior-high students.

Planning, which has been going on for some months, is expected to accelerate after school officials hire a program coordinator this week.

Jackson's program, however, will go one step beyond the federally funded arts program. Partly in response to recommendations made by a Jackson Chamber of Commerce task force last spring, the district will use local funds to augment the desegregation grant, and will tie the arts program to a similar new academic program.

Academic course offerings will probably include mathematics, science, and creative writing, according to Swinton Hill, assistant superintendent for instructional services for the Jackson Public Schools.

"We have good support from the community," Mr. Hill said.

With advice and counsel from officials in Dallas, Tex., and Memphis, Tenn., members of the district's recently formed instructional council are now designing the program. Mr. Hill said that the earliest they could begin offering classes is Nov. 1, but it is much more likely that the classes will begin with the second semester.

The arts/academic program will be similar to the Jackson Public Schools' "career center," with students attending the special classes for up to half of each school day, and spending the rest of the day at their regular schools.

Mr. Hill said that officials aren't sure yet how many students will be attending the special classes, but that they would "accommodate some students at all levels."

So far, the arts program has 10 slots for teachers, but the full-time staff will be augmented by part-time teachers who are professionals in the arts. Mr. Hill said that several music teachers from Jackson State University will probably be teaching music courses such as advanced band theory.

The arts program will have federal support for three years, after which, Mr. Hill said, the district is prepared to assume the cost.--S.W.

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