Science versus art for Davis Elementary

Of options in survey sent to parents, one oriented toward sciences and one focused on arts came out ahead, school board says.

October 21, 2008|By Michael Alexander

Would you rather have your fourth-grader go to a school that teaches robotics, has wireless Internet, a broadcast TV station, smart boards and electronic slates, and even a “Wii Lab?” Or would you prefer a black box theater, opera club, art gallery, script-writing classes, honors choir and Mac iBooks for every student fourth grade and above?

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board met Tuesday in a study session, and members appeared to agree on the top choices for Davis Elementary School, which they aim to turn into a magnet next year: either a Creative Arts/Visual Arts and Performing Arts school, or a school with a Science/Technology/Math theme.

The district put out a survey to parents in the district, and the results showed the strongest interest was in math, science, technology, the visual arts and the performing arts.


Susan Astarita, assistant superintendent of elementary education, presented four types of magnet schools, along with many options for what they could offer, but those two stood out for many board members

“The numbers clearly show two of them way ahead,” member Judith Franco said. “These options combine the greatest amount of positive numbers.”

Two other options were presented, but board members mostly ruled them out because of less interest from parents.

Parents didn’t respond as enthusiastically to a “back to basics” curriculum full of memorization, the three Rs, high discipline and required parental involvement, nor to a language-immersion school where 50% of classes would be in Spanish, according to surveys.

But several board members said they did like the idea from “back to basics” or “fundamentals” schools of having parents sign a contract to be more involved in campus life. School staff said that could work in any situation.

“There’s no reason you couldn’t ask parents to get involved,” Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard said. “That’s not solely limited to the ‘fundamentals’ schools.”

Next, the district plans to take the most talked about options and put them out to community focus groups near Davis to see which elements are most popular, Astarita said. That will happen as soon as possible, within the next couple of weeks, she added.

The whole process is exciting, board President Martha Fluor said.

“It’s evident that the sky’s the limit,” she said. “The bottom line is, it’s up to us to creatively think outside the box, and it’s all about the community making the magnet what they desire it to be.”

The district is still looking for feedback on a possible magnet school, which can be sent to

MICHAEL ALEXANDER may be reached at (714) 966-4618 or at

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