ALAMEDA -- The Alameda Unified School District plans to open a magnet school program, called Junior Jets, for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at the Encinal High School campus next year.

The school would be based at the site of the Alameda Community Learning Center, a charter school that will relocate. It would serve 150 to 200 students. Informational meetings for parents are under way, and so far the response has been significant -- the first meeting resulted in parents submitting 100 interest forms.

One of the advantages of the program is that students would get earlier access to the high school programs at Encinal when they are academically ready to do so, according to the school district's announcement. The middle schoolers would be in their own classrooms, but those who excel in various studies may attend higher-level classes with the high school students. The program would focus on building early foundations for college and career readiness.

The California Education Department defines magnet schools as entire schools with a special focus. The department provides assistance to develop magnet programs, but it does not provide special funding.

Sandy Wong, the school district's coordinator of school innovation, said students from outside Encinal's boundaries are welcome to sign up for Junior Jets. She said preference will be given first to students whose siblings attend grades 9 through 12 at Encinal. There is no requirement to take tests to register for the program.

Wong said the program also calls for attending to the social and emotional needs of middle school students. She said each student will have an adult guide to help navigate him or her through the three-year program to deal with emotional transitions such as moving up from the lower grades to middle school and the other changes that adolescents experience as they approach high school years.

Being able to develop and maintain relationships with students and families for seven years rather than for four years will enable staff at Encinal High School to better address students' academic and social needs, district representatives state.

Encinal teachers and administrators wrote the Junior Jets magnet school proposal last year, and the school board approved it. Other Alameda magnet schools include the Alameda Science and Technology Institute at the College of Alameda campus and Maya Lin School on Taylor Avenue in the West End.

The daily nuts and bolts of the Junior Jets program, such as hiring staff and scheduling athletic field use and lunches to accommodate the middle and high school students, are still under discussion, Wong said.

FYI
For more information, go to the Junior Jets tab at the Encinal High School website at http://ehs.alamedausd.ca.schoolloop.com. To get on the EHS Junior Jets mailing list, contact teacher Sarah Stickle at 510-748-4023, ext. 2305, or at sstickle@alameda.k12.ca.us.