M. Terry / SFVS

Kennedy High, one of two Valley area high schools to offer magnet programs for gifted students starting in 2016-17.

Magnet programs for gifted and high-ability students will open in 2016-17 at high schools in Woodland Hills and Granada Hills, adding more than 1,000 magnet seats and providing an academic pipeline for high-achieving students in the San Fernando Valley.

The school board voted Tuesday to create the magnets at Taft and John F. Kennedy High schools, which will serve students who have been accepted into gifted, highly gifted or high-ability programs. The Kennedy center will focus on students interested in medical careers, while Taft will be for those interested in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).

 North Hollywood High has a magnet program for highly gifted students but, until now, there hasn’t been a high school in the Valley to serve gifted and high-ability students when they matriculate from eighth grade.

 “I’m excited about providing high-quality choices for some of our families,” said Keith Abrahams, executive director of Student Integrated Services, which oversees the District’s 198 magnet centers. “This is especially important to because there is such a strong need for this kind of program in the Valley.”

According to Abrahams, West Valley schools lost nearly 1,100 gifted students when they advanced this year from eighth to ninth grades. He hopes the new magnets will avert a similar drain and keep students in District schools. The Kennedy program will open next year with nearly 460 seats. Taft will open with 126 ninth-graders next year, and will expand to more than 600 students in all grades by 2021-22.

“We’re pleased to be able to provide our students and parents with these expanded relevant and engaging learning opportunities to meet individual student needs and interests,” said Vivian Ekchian, superintendent of Local District-Northwest.

“These two new magnet schools at Kennedy and Taft High Schools are in addition to our current portfolio of schools that are continually providing students with the literacy, critical thinking, and technological skills necessary to be competitive in a 21st century global market,” Ekchian said.

An estimated 23,000 students are now on waiting lists for magnets, which offer theme-based instruction at schools around Los Angeles Unified. Magnets are the result of a court-ordered desegregation plan implemented in 1981. The plan was designed to alleviate the harms of racial isolation and to maximize opportunities for non-white students to attend racially integrated schools.

In the recent Smarter Balanced Assessments, magnet scores exceeded state, charter and Districtwide averages at all grade levels.