Lansing Schools Show Off Magnet Program at the Mall

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

In the last 20 years, the Lansing School District has lost roughly 6,000 students. A recent self-assessment shows the district needs to promote itself more, better telling the public what services it has.

Teachers took to showcasing the district's Montessori magnet program at the Lansing Mall in Delta Township Saturday.

Wexford Elementary School Montessori program students are used to learning on their floor mats -- no desks and chairs.

They're used to visual learning -- matching words to objects. And they're used to -- no peeking -- using 'other' senses to arrange blocks.

But it's not a school day, and this isn't their classroom. It's in the middle of the Lansing Mall.

The unusual display is a showcase for the Lansing School District's Montessori magnet program at Wexford. The district is here selling the program to prospective parents.

"The playing encompasses ... How to build words, take words apart, manipulate numbers, add, subtract, multiply, divide," Wexford teacher Eric Royston said.

And it is different. Just ask kids who stopped by the display and weren't used to Montessori learning.

"We only get like fifteen minutes to do this kind of stuff," a student trying out the Montessori learning program said.

The hands-on learning and hands-on display could mean much for Lansing schools than an opportunity to showcase new programs. It could mean a change in a decades-old trend.

"I was looking at private schools," Montessori parent Carol Dixon said.

In other words, without the magnet program, Dixon and her son would have been out of the district.

Lansing Public Schools has been losing students since 1987 -- likely due in part to factors like Lansing's economy and suburban growth. But a new survey requested by the district suggests concerns about the quality of education and class size may have played a role as well.

The magnet program -- and the very public display -- are intended to draw parents and students back. The display was enough to catch the attention of parents looking at other options.

"Even home schooling. I've considered that too," Kristy Baker said.

But Baker says the one-on-one attention and invididual learning offered by Montessori is appealing. Still, like most of the parents we saw attracted to the program, she's not quite ready to make a decision on where her son goes to school.

"I guess I need to start. He's getting to be that old," Baker said.

Magnet programs within Lansing schools have been around for a couple of years now.

But more than half of parents in that recent survey had they didn't know Lansing was the only district in the area to offer the magnet programs.

-- in Delta Township, Tony Tagliavia, News 10.

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