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District talks of offering specialty areas of study

Four high school principals reveal early ideas for so-called flagship programs, but much remains to be resolved, including funding.

March 05, 2014|By Hannah Fry

Flagship programs, which allow students to specialize in a specific subject from kindergarten through graduation, could be implemented in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District by next school year.

The Costa Mesa, Corona del Mar, Estancia and Newport Harbor high school principals presented their eight respective flagship programs, featuring both art and academic pathways, during a special meeting of the school board Tuesday afternoon.

While the principals hope to begin implementation by the 2014-15 school year, much remains to be figured out, said Chuck Hinman, assistant superintendent of secondary education.

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"We don't have a lot of answers for you today. This is conceptual," he said. "It's taken us this long to come up with what a flagship might be."

The district began discussing flagship programs in each of the school zones — named after each high school and made up of elementary, middle and high schools — nearly two years ago.

District officials held meetings at school campuses and conducted an online survey to determine what subject each zone wanted to specialize in with the goal of attracting more students to Newport-Mesa schools, administrators said.

The highest demand overall in the survey was for math and science fields, with 21% of respondents requesting a focus related to science, technology, engineering or math.

Corona del Mar's two proposed flagship programs are an international academy, which would focus on foreign language development and social science courses, and a performing arts and multimedia academy, which would have pathways for art, dance, drama, instrumental and choral, said Principal Kathy Scott.

"We realized that we offer a lot of great courses, but it's not very focused," she said. "This aligns students on a track that gets them to a particular destination."

Estancia's flagship, E-Tech High, would feature an engineering and design academy focused on construction technology, a biomedical academy focused on preparing students for a medical career and an animation academy, which would boast a digital media arts program, said Principal Kirk Bauermeister.

"Students will graduate with a competitive academic resume for admission into nationally and internationally recognized schools," he said.

Costa Mesa and Newport Harbor would incorporate programs they currently offer into their flagships.

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