Arundel school administrators, families discuss arts magnet program

The Anne Arundel County School System on Tuesday night fielded questions from parents and students about the county's upcoming Performance Visual Arts magnet program for high schools, a first-time endeavor that will offer students a chance to work with arts professionals while extending their school day four times a week.

About 100 parents from throughout the county listened to the school system's presentation at Old Mill High School in Millersville.

The program is set to launch for ninth- and 10th-graders in August and will be housed at Annapolis and Broadneck high schools. In addition, the program partners with Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts and Anne Arundel Community College.

Study areas include dance, theater, creative and dramatic writing, 3-D studio art, film and technical production/arts management. The program will call for students' school days to be extended by nearly three hours from Monday-Thursday.

County high schools typically run from 7:17 a.m. to 2:05 p.m., school officials said. The magnet schools program would mean a school day would end at 4:45 p.m.

The program would ultimately be offered for rising 11th- and 12th-grade students — those who entered the program as ninth and tenth graders. AACPS officials said that they envision that ultimately the program will comprise about 800 students.

The school system currently has two middle school Performance Visual Arts magnet programs, at Bates and Brooklyn Park middle schools.

"We're looking to prepare kids who want to go onto college and preparatory schools and consider arts as their career," said Lori Snyder, performing and visual arts magnet teacher specialist. "We're asking parents and students to apply if they're really passionate about the arts and they want to spend this extended time and instruction in the arts."

Most parents said they were encouraged with the chance to connect their children with working artists and professionals the magnet program would offer. Others voiced concern about the extended day and the travel time.

The program was welcome news for students such as Lexi Pline, a ninth-grader at Annapolis High School, who was in the county's magnet program while attending Bates Middle School.

"It will be nice knowing that I have the option because I'm really focused on the arts," said Pline. "It really helps me learn to do arts things, and I like the longer art classes."