My school district has junior high schools, not middle schools. So you stay in elementary school for six years, then go to junior high for two years, then high school starts in 9th grade.
Richardson has two Magnet Junior High Schools. One is called West, and it’s the Arts and Technology Magnet. The other one is Westwood and it’s the Math, Science and Leadership Magnet.
I went to the orientation at both of them, and they booth seem cool. But Westwood offers some things that I wish West offered. Like for instance, Westwood offers six languages, including Latin, Japanese and German, but West only offers Spanish and French. Westwood also offers philosophy and orchestra while the “arts” magnet doesn’t. And, of course, Westwood offers the science magnet. I’d love to go to Westwood — but all they talked about at orientation was math, and being able to take high school algebra in seventh grade. I am NOT going to do that.
I’ve won the science fair the last two years, and I love science. Just got our “benchmark” science test scores back, and I had a very high score. Report cards came out, and my low grade was in math (again) — the only “B” on the report card. You’d think a school called the Math, Science, and Leadership Magnet would spend as much time talking about science as they do about math and leadership, but during the orientation the focus was all on algebra in seventh grade. They even said that anyone who signs up for a special test you have to take to get into their math program would automatically get in to the school if they pass it — no lottery, no other screen: just take the test and you get in.
West offers a theater arts program that seems cool, plus communications arts — that includes making movies. And it’s where the robotics program is and also where the visual arts program is. But why don’t they offer more languages, or orchestra instead of just marching band?
They won’t let you apply for more than two programs. I really wanted to apply for Leadership, Science, Performing Arts, Robotics, and Visual Arts. But they make you pick just two, so yesterday I turned in my application for Performing Arts and Visual Arts. That means that if I get in, I’ll go to West Junior High.
It’s a lottery system for Robotics, Leadership and Science. They look at your grades, and if you meet the minimum requirements, you go into a lottery and they take 60 kids for each program, then they have a wait list of up to 100 more kids for each one. The counselor said only two or three kids off the wait list will get in.
The Leadership program sounded really cool — but like I said, the school hardly talked at all about science. That was a real turn-off for me. But I kind of wish I had applied for Westwood. It’s hard!
The application steps for Visual Arts and Performing Arts are different. For performing arts there’s an interview, and if you get past that, there’s an audition where you pick one of three monologues and perform it for the teachers. For visual arts, you submit two projects they assign. One is a multimedia project you have to do at school with your art teacher, and the other one is a pencil portrait of someone in your family. I picked the monologue I want to do, and have started learning it.
My acting coach, Nancy Chartier, says it’s too early to do much more than learn the lines because you don’t want to be over-rehearsed by the time you have to perform the monologue in January. That’s good, because I’m really too busy to spend a lot of time on it right now!
I don’t know how I feel about going to school on the other side of town from where we live. I won’t know very many people at the Magnet Schools. But it’s a chance to make new friends, and several of my cousins went to Magnet Schools and really liked them. All of my cousins say that magnet junior high schools and high schools helped them get into the college program they wanted, and that they got the chance to take classes that wouldn’t have been available in their home schools.
They also say you have a ton of homework, and will be in class a lot more hours every day because you’ll want to sign up for the “zero hour” (before school) classes at the magnet school because they are always so cool.
I just wish they didn’t make you pick. I’m 12, and I have no idea what I really want to study in college, or do after school. I really want to learn German, and a string instrument. I guess I just don’t want to do those things enough to sign up to take high school algebra two years early!
Wish me luck with the magnet school applications. We’ll find out in February if we get in or not. If I don’t get into one of the magnet schools, I’ll go to Lake Highlands Junior High School. My sister’s dad went there, and says it’s cool, and my sister went to Lake Highlands High School and really liked it. It’s really close to where we live, too.
So it will be ok if I don’t get in. At least that’s what I tell myself so I don’t worry about it!