Phoenix-Talent School District will debut a pilot magnet program in the fall that will serve nearly 70 children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Phoenix-Talent School District will debut a pilot magnet program in the fall that will serve nearly 70 children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The program, initiated last year by a group of parents who wanted a more hands-on and environmental science-based education for their children, will start out larger than originally thought with 67 pupils, said Teresa Sayre, district instructional services director.

The students will meet in two classrooms at the Talent Boys & Girls Club.

The program is possible now as a result of federal stimulus funds for innovative education programs and additional state revenue the district will receive from the enrollment of about 24 home-school students in the magnet program. Many of the home-school pupils come from outside the district and will require out-of-district transfers.

The classrooms will be configured with kindergarten through second grade in one classroom and grades 4 through 6 in the other. Third-graders will go to either class based on their needs and skills. A teacher will be transferred to the magnet program, and another teacher will have to be hired, Sayre said.

The curriculum will focus on environmental sciences, hands-on projects and community learning. Fridays will be dedicated to learning projects in "the field" such as at local farms.

Already, 63 students are on a waiting list for the program, a sign of the growing demand for such programs, Sayre said.

A group of parents proposed the program last fall and kicked off a blitz of research, parent surveys and communication with district educators to help persuade the school board to take on the project.

The district was uncertain whether it would be able to begin the magnet program at all next year because of deep budget cuts, but because of the program's draw for home-schools students, the program will likely bring in revenue for the district.

— Paris Achen