School board gives OK for Cary’s Kingswood Elementary to become a magnet

aspecht@newsobserver.comOctober 7, 2013 

  • For more information

    Wake County will host a magnet schools fair from 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 2 at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School, 2600 Rock Quarry Road.

    All magnet elementary schools in Wake County will hold open houses from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Jan. 9.

    Families can begin applying to magnet schools Jan. 28; the application process ends Feb. 9.

— Starting next summer, Cary will be home to Wake County’s only public-school Montessori program.

The Wake County school board voted unanimously Oct. 1 to make Kingswood Elementary a Montessori-themed magnet school.

“I’m totally supportive of keeping the program in the district,” said board member Susan Evans. “I think it’ll be attractive to western Wake families.”

Bill Fletcher, who represents Cary on the school board, added: “This is a tremendous opportunity. … Kingswood is a magical place.”

The school board had been looking to relocate the magnet-Montessori program from Poe Elementary since last year to make way for a program for academically gifted students at the Raleigh school.

The magnet-Montessori program was offered to Lynn Road Elementary in North Raleigh, but parents there rejected the idea.

The Montessori teaching method can be polarizing. Supporters tout the benefits of allowing students to learn at their own pace using hands-on activities, while critics cast doubt that the method – which calls for integrating students of different ages into one classroom – works for the student majority.

Sherry Schliesser, principal at Kingswood Elementary, said the Montessori methods are familiar to her staff’s existing teaching styles.

“We are a great family organization. We have been following our children’s needs for many years,” Schliesser told the school board.

Keith Sutton, the school board chairman, said the board appreciates “the willingness of (Schliesser’s) staff to step up to the plate.”

Aside from tweaking the school’s teaching methods, the magnet program is also expected to change the student population. Kingswood has the highest percentage of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch of any elementary school in Cary.

For years, Wake schools have used the magnet system to balance socio-economic factors at schools.

School leaders say the magnet program at Kingswood will attract students from financially stable families.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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