GLENDALE — Three Glendale Unified elementary schools will convert to magnet schools next year after the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday awarded the district a three-year, $7.5-million grant.
Keppel Elementary School will be an arts magnet, Franklin Elementary will grow its foreign language programs, and Edison Elementary School will become a technology magnet, with more access to the Internet and computers.
"It's an incredible, amazing opportunity for these three schools and the district as a whole," said Vickie Atikian Aviles, the assistant director of special projects and intercultural education. "This gives us an opportunity to bring in professional development and provide these three themes at these schools that we wouldn't be able to do any other way."
Magnet schools are open to families outside Glendale Unified boundaries, but district officials are refining plans to hold lotteries and award space to nonresidents and other Glendale Unified families. Any attendance adjustment would affect next year's kindergartners, Aviles said.
Students at Keppel have 60 minutes of art instruction every week. But in three years, they will very likely have visual and performing arts opportunities that range from advanced orchestras to ballet classes, Principal Mary Mason said.
An emphasis on arts will also touch upon core academic subjects, she said.
"With science and math, you can definitely be creative and think outside the box," Mason said. "The more kids explore and problem solve — when you have to create something from scratch, you're developing those critical problem-solving skills, [which] carries kids no matter what subject they are working with."
More immediate are the partnerships and hires that will need to be made, officials said. Each school will partner with neighboring institutions to train teachers in new and innovative lesson plans. At Franklin, that may mean a fourth foreign language, or ballet lessons at Keppel, officials said.
"[We] are going to bring in teaching artists to work directly with [the school's] teachers and students in the classroom," Mason said.
At each school, it will also mean more electrical and hard-wiring work to make room for new computers and digital instructional tools, officials said.
"So they can experience the Met [art museum in New York City] or go to the Smithsonian and have those experiences in their classrooms," Mason said.
At Edison, officials said they expect graduating students to have skills that range from presentation and public speaking to efficient research and networking.
Three dual-language programs exist at Franklin, and the school could add a fourth and expand its foreign language programs to students in English-only classes, officials said.
The programs at each school will continue after federal dollars expire in 2013, officials said. Until then, each campus will be making purchases, hires and complying with the federal grant, Aviles said.
"It's definitely going to be a lot of work," she said. "But we knew that going into it, and we're ready to take that on."