Peninsula School District’s 10th elementary will be a ‘themed’ school, board decides

The Peninsula School District will open its first magnet school, the school board decided last week.

The board voted unanimously at an April 25th meeting to choose a “theme” for its 10th elementary, which will be located at the former Boys & Girls Club in Gig Harbor.

A magnet school will “open the door” for parents “to consider whether or not that magnet school would be something they want for their child,” Peninsula Superintendent Art Jarvis said at the meeting.

A magnet school, also referred to as school of choice, is open to students from across the district and focuses on specific class themes.

In late February, Peninsula narrowed the theme options to three possibilities: a School of the Arts, a Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Math (STEAM) school or a Community School, where community partners work alongside district staff to help educate students. The school board is also open to other possibilities.

The idea for a theme school drew backlash in March after staff and parents spoke out about feeling “blindsided” by the idea.

“I noticed from talking to parents over the past couple of days that a majority of parents out there still have not heard this idea,” parent Sarah Ericson told the board in March. “It seems like it would be rash, and frankly irresponsible, to make a big decision like that hurriedly and when so much of the community is uninformed about it.”

In response to the comments, Jarvis and the school board put off the decision to make elementary No. 10 a school of choice until April.

Voters approved the construction of two new elementary schools in the February election. The decision to make one of them a magnet school was two-fold. Not only would it provide students and parents with more choices, but it would disperse overcrowding district wide, Jarvis said.

Making elementary No. 10 a magnet school would prevent the district from making massive boundary changes and forcibly moving families from where they are to one of the two new schools, Jarvis said.

The elementary at the Boys & Girls Club was the ideal location, Jarvis said, because of its close proximity to other elementary schools.

After students apply to attend the magnet school, the district will use a lottery system to select them if more students apply then slots are available.

The new school is expected to open in 2020 and will house 500 students.

Prior to 2020, the Boys & Girls Club will be used by students from four classrooms out of Discovery, four classrooms out of Harbor Heights and two classrooms out of Purdy as a new addition is built on the site to relieve overcrowding.

The Peninsula School Board named Stephanie Strader as the principal of the new magnet school on April 25.

Strader is the current principal at Harbor Heights Elementary and has been there for five years.

“I am honored and humbled to be on this journey for our students,” Strader said in an email to The Gateway. “I believe in our schools and the high levels of learning we provide daily for all our students across the district. This will be another opportunity for our students to feel empowered and engage in learning differently.”

Strader and her planning team are in the process of developing a school name for the magnet school and plan to engage the community in the process.

“We have a desire to have both complete as we transition into summer,” she said.