Blueprint APS Specializations and Magnet Schools Update

APS Community,

We are continuing to implement Blueprint APS, our long-term education and facilities plan.  Blueprint APS has always been based on community voice, community need, and community choice. Our community-driven process started in 2017 with thousands of community members providing input through interviews, focus groups, town halls, surveys and Board member-led community meetings. We followed a multi-phased approach to ensure that students have the educational opportunities and facilities to shape successful futures. 

As we have shared previously, Blueprint APS focuses on providing strong college and career choice options through seven regional specializations across the district. By establishing regional specializations, we will increase opportunities for students to be engaged and develop unique skill sets. 

A specialization within a region includes a unique focus on content or instructional delivery that provides students with engaging, relevant and rigorous educational opportunities. Each region will offer a district-managed magnet school choice option. In order to achieve this, we must repurpose buildings throughout the district. These magnet schools will support students to be more engaged in learning and develop unique skill sets. 

Magnet schools have a specific academic focus or program that attracts students, like a magnet, from all across the district. Students who attend magnet schools are specifically interested in that academic subject area or the way that learning happens at that school. 

For Region 6, we recently partnered with Keystone Policy Center, a Colorado-based non-profit to help us gain feedback on how to shape and design the Region 6 magnet school. We thank those of you who shared your thoughts at the town hall meetings and through the survey. 

For Region 3, we convened a group of stakeholders including APS staff and community partners who met regularly over the past few months. They examined successful examples and lessons learned about arts magnet schools across the country.

In selecting the educational theme focus for magnet schools, the APS Leadership Team considers several factors, including industry best practices as well as direction from the APS Board of Education and community stakeholders throughout the Blueprint APS engagement process.  

While we are planning for all of our regional specializations, our initial focus areas are regions 3 and 6. We are excited to announce specializations for those regions and our plans for transitioning or repurposing buildings in those regions. 

Region 3 Magnet Specialization - Visual and Performing Arts
Aurora Public Schools will transition Peoria Elementary School, Educational Services Center 4 and Aurora Central High School into a K-12 Magnet Campus. Please note that Aurora Central High School will remain a comprehensive neighborhood high school. This campus will focus on arts-related disciplines including dance, music, theater and visual arts. 

Region 3 Next Steps and Timeline
We will hire a leader for the K-12 Magnet Campus in the coming weeks. Once the leader is in place, they will organize a School Design Team made up of parents/guardians, staff and community members to determine the school mission and vision and how the magnet theme will be incorporated into student learning. This design team will also help determine many logistical decisions such as enrollment processes, transportation structures and possible future building modifications to better suit the needs of the magnet. 

The campus will open as a Visual and Performing Arts magnet for the 2022-23 school year. There will be no changes to Peoria Elementary for the 2021-22 school year. We will soon begin a boundary process to determine where current Peoria students would attend school for the 2022-23 school year. Please note that grade levels at the new magnet campus will be phased in over several years. This means that not all grades will open for the 2022-23 school year. As a reminder, Aurora Central will remain a comprehensive neighborhood high school. For the younger grades, this phased-in approach will allow for more intentional planning and community building.

Region 6 Magnet Specialization - Entrepreneurship and Invention
The magnet school in this region will open at Wheeling Elementary School in the 2022-23 school year and will focus on Entrepreneurship and Invention. This means that students will learn through investigating and responding to authentic, engaging and complex questions or challenges. Students will likely work on these questions or challenges as units of study rather than by taking a typical math or English course. Students will also need to collaborate and create solutions in team environments. Many postsecondary institutions are now offering entrepreneurial programs and certificates to prepare students to launch their own businesses and/or new technologies.

Region 6 Next Steps and Timeline
Our goal is to hire a leader for the magnet school at Wheeling in the coming weeks. Over the summer, the school leader will organize a School Design Team made up of parents/guardians, staff and community members to determine the school mission and vision and how the magnet themes will be incorporated into student learning. As we mentioned earlier, this team will also help determine many logistical decisions such as enrollment processes, transportation structures and possible future building modifications to better suit the needs of the magnet.

Once again, the magnet school will open in the 2022-23 school year. There will be no changes to Wheeling Elementary for the 2021-22 school year.  We will soon begin a boundary process to determine where current Wheeling students would attend school for the 2022-23 school year. Please note that grade levels at the new magnet school will be phased in over several years. This means that not all grades will open for the 2022-23 school year. This phased-in approach will allow for more intentional planning and community building. 

As we continue implementing Blueprint APS, we will continue to provide updates on a regular basis. Thank you for your continued support as we work to provide strong college and career choice options for every APS student and family.

- Superintendent Rico Munn