Waco Independent School District won’t be getting a fine arts and humanities magnet school any time soon after the U.S. Department of Education passed on the district’s request for a $9 million startup grant, Waco ISD spokesperson Kyle DeBeer said.

The district applied for the grant in the spring, hoping to establish the school at Waco High as a first step in a plan to add more magnet schools across the district.

“(The department) provided some scoring on the grant, and broadly they were looking for proposals that were tied to a larger, more established body of research,” DeBeer said.

The grant would have expanded offerings in arts and humanities, with more individualized support and instruction in fine arts, DeBeer said. And the school would have brought in a larger selection of Advanced Placement humanities courses, he said.

The magnet school would have also helped improve racial integration and diversity in student attendance, a school board resolution stated in March.

But losing the grant doesn’t mean Waco ISD has stepped away from the idea of adding magnet schools altogether, DeBeer said. Instead, Waco ISD officials are reviewing the grant proposal and assessing other ways the district might implement parts of the plan.

“I think there is a larger conversation taking place in the district right now, where the district’s looking to hear from the community about the needs for students,” he said.

On the curriculum side of the proposal, officials are looking at ways to add some of the proposed course offerings, including a 3D arts course, using existing resources, but that will depend on student interest and enrollment, DeBeer said.

The district’s grant department is also evaluating what other grants are available to fund pieces of the original proposal.

Waco ISD will be holding three meetings to allow the public to talk with administrators and board members about ongoing challenges in the district, DeBeer said.

The first will be 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Waco ISD Conference Center, 115 S. Fifth St. The others will be Oct. 30 and Nov. 6, with the locations still being determined.

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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