School with a zoo? That’s only the beginning at local magnet schools and tech academies

The Civil and Environmental Engineering building at West Career and Technical Academy in Summerlin.
Photo: Paul Takahashi

The Clark County School District’s 25 magnet schools and technical academies draw high-achieving students interested in specialized programs that better prepare them for college or transition them right into careers. Schools boast unique offerings not just in math and sciences, but in aviation, biomedicine, finance, culinary arts and media, as well as high academic rankings. Here’s a look at five outstanding schools, where hands-on learning takes students inside greenhouses, doctors’ offices and yes, even a small “zoo.”

Walter Bracken STEAM Academy Out of the more than 3,000 magnet schools represented by Magnet Schools of America, the professional organization selected Walter Bracken STEAM Academy’s Kathleen Decker for its 2013 National Principal of the Year honor. Decker was recognized for transforming Bracken—one of the lowest-performing schools in the district—into a district success ranked in the top 5 percent. The elementary school’s magnet program emphasizes science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).

West Career and Technical Academy Designated as a five-star school for the 2012-13 school year, WestCTA features programs including medical sciences, biotechnology, information and technology, digital art and media, nursing and environmental sciences. Students study a variety of plant species in its four greenhouses, using technology to simulate different climates. Pre-medical studies programs help students determine medical fields of interest and provide internships at local doctors’ offices, and students can participate in Southern Hills Hospital’s High School to Health Care Program.

Advanced Technologies Academy Recognized twice as a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, A-TECH emphasizes computers and technology with programs like architectural drafting and design, computer science, engineering, legal studies and web development. A-TECH 2013 graduate Paolo Vazquez took first place out of 226 students from 32 high schools in a national high school architectural competition (Chicago Architecture Foundation’s DiscoverDesign) for his design transforming A-TECH’s campus library, and the school’s recognitions include nods from Intel, Magnet Schools of America and U.S. News & World Report.

Mabel Hoggard Math and Science Magnet Elementary School Mabel Hoggard, Clark County School District’s first elementary magnet school, has been recognized by the district as a five-star school and was one of five schools in the nation named as a Magnet Schools of America 2013 Merit Winner for “high academic standards, curriculum innovation, successful desegregation and diversity efforts and strong parent and community involvement.” The school has indoor and outdoor laboratory programs and its own small “zoo,” with more than 50 animals for hands-on learning.

Veterans Tribute Career & Technical Academy While Rancho High is known for its aviation and aerospace programs, complete with pilot training, the Veterans Tribute Career & Technical Academy prepares students for careers in law enforcement and other areas of public service. Only in its fifth year (the first graduating class was in 2012), it’s too early to track the graduates post-high school, but each of its 740 students are in EMT or law enforcement programs that offer an onsite emergency dispatch training center, courses in crime scene investigation and forensic science.

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