Grantee Corner  |  School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties



Two girls read on the floor
H.E. Corley Elementary Montessori Program students work together as they meet in the reading corner during their daily classroom experience

A boy cuts a banana
H.E. Corley Elementary Montessori Program student works on his practical life skills in the kitchen. Students learn how to use authentic cutlery, dishes, and glasses and practice utilizing these along with their serving skills regularly

Five students hold musical instruments
Nursery Road Elementary Arts Magnet third grade students participate in the Instrumental Music Room’s “Escape Room.” In this arts integration series, the class is on the virtual road as a band and they must solve problems to reach their destination

Three girls pose holding tap shoes
Nursery Road Elementary Arts Magnet students take part in the “Tap Class Pre-Game” that is offered to students in the mornings before school starts to prepare for the performances that take place in the winter and spring each year

A boy holds a pink electric guitar and wears headphones
Nursery Road Elementary Arts Magnet student participates in the Instrumental Music Class where he learns to play the electric guitar

A boy and girl wearing coveralls dust a table for fingerprints
Leaphart Elementary STEAM Magnet fourth grade students team up in their Forensic Field Experience to solve a mysterious crime. While dusting for fingerprints they learn how their skills and education apply in real-world careers

Four students sit in a circle on the floor around a small robot
Leaphart Elementary STEAM Magnet fifth grade students use teamwork, collaboration, and coding as they work in the 3D LEGO Robotics lab in their school

One student films a student interview in front of a green screen
The Center for Advanced Technical Studies students in Media Technology 1 learn in the Green Room, working on interviewing, presenting, lighting, and camera operation

Two female students in scrubs groom a dachsund
The Center for Advanced Technical Studies students offer this pet their full attention as they examine and groom him during their Small Animal Care class. Students work with real animals from the community


Sara Wheeler, School District Five Project Director

School District Five of Lexington & Richland Counties (School District Five) in South Carolina encompasses approximately 196 square miles and is evenly divided between the two counties; it includes the northern portion of Lexington County and the northwestern portion of Richland County. Primarily in residential suburbs, School District Five sits northwest of Columbia, the state’s capital city. The district’s three attendance areas are Chapin, Dutch Fork, and Irmo, which have a total of twelve elementary schools, two intermediate schools, three middle schools, four high schools, one Center for Advanced Technical Studies, and one alternative school. School District Five employs more than 1,300 teachers, who serve more than 17,500 PreK-12 students. 

School District Five educators believe that all students can learn, however, not every student learns in the same way. The diversity of talents, interests, learning styles, and backgrounds makes for a great community of thinkers and problem solvers. School District Five educators emphasize growing academic programs through magnet and other school choice offerings, so “Every Choice is a Great Choice” in School District Five! The fiscal year 2017 Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant helps to implement Discover 5, which includes four programs within five schools. 

The Discover 5 MSAP grant created two new partial magnet programs at H.E. Corley Elementary Montessori Magnet and the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme at Irmo High International School for the Arts. MSAP funds also converted Nursery Road Elementary School from a traditional program to Nursery Road Elementary Arts Magnet and significantly revised Leaphart Elementary STEM Magnet to a science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics (STEAM) magnet.

The MSAP-funded project is reducing minority group isolation and increasing socioeconomic diversity; using research-based approaches to raise student academic achievement; and promoting interactions among students from various socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Community partnerships support rigorous programs of study, personalized learning, and innovative theme-based curricula to enhance college and career readiness. The MSAP funds enabled School District Five to include key players to support for the new programs. These include a Cooperative Learning Coach and a Diversity Consultant to work with the faculty and students at the schools, and a Marketing and Recruitment Specialist who helps the programs build community and business partnerships. 

H.E. Corley Elementary Montessori Magnet follows the Montessori Method, introduced in 1907 as a “child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood.” As a program within a school, the Montessori Magnet is currently available to 4-, 5-, and 6-year-old students selected through a lottery-based application process. Each year H.E. Corley will add another age/level to the program. To help families understand this style of learning, and support it in their home life, the Montessori classes regularly host students’ families on campus to experience “Learning at The Hands of Our Children.” The Montessori Magnet is developing community partnerships that align with students’ exploratory interests and diverse cultural backgrounds. Clubs and events are designed with the MSAP program objectives of increasing achievement and promoting diversity by reducing and preventing minority group isolation and increasing socioeconomic diversity. 

Leaphart Elementary STEAM Magnet helps all learners discover ways to solve problems, design solutions through an investigative process, and develop the skills needed for the future. This whole-school magnet features STEAM Inquiry Labs where students can experiment with materials and concepts learned in the classroom to deepen understanding and ownership of learning. Lab offerings include MakerSpace, Science Lab, Math Lab, Inner-Engineering Lab, and an Outdoor Sound Wall. In addition to the curriculum, students have opportunities to engage in theme-related activities through various clubs as well as family STEAM nights and carnivals throughout the school year and the summer.

Nursery Road Elementary Arts Magnet is a whole-school program that offers media, visual arts, and performing arts through an integrated curriculum that extends into all aspects of the learning experience. A new Dance/Drama Studio provides a place to learn choreography and technical stage management, while the Instrumental Music Studio offers experiences with a variety of instruments and sound recording. The Art Studio is complete with a 3-D printer and pottery wheel and the Multi-Media Studio has iMac computers, iPads, and DSLR cameras. Nursery Road enhances students’ love of learning by offering “Pre-Game” activities in a productive and fun environment prior to the start of school each day. Set Design and Construction, Ukulele Instruction, Stained Glass Class, African Drumming, Yoga, Pottery, Jump Rope, Spanish, Ballroom Dancing, and Café Champion Chef are some of the offerings. The creation, direction, and performance of two major musical productions each year embeds student learning in a creative environment that incorporates curriculum standards and involves every student at every grade level. 

Irmo High School International Baccalaureate (IB) Career-related Programme Magnet is a collaborative initiative between Irmo High School and the Center for Advanced Technical Studies. Students take their IB Diploma Programme courses and career core components at Irmo High School and their career-related classes at The Center for Advanced Technical Studies—a stand-alone facility that offers a highly technical, inquiry-based learning environment. This collaboration offers students opportunities to immerse themselves in Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Sciences, Culinary Arts, Media Film and Technology, and Veterinary Sciences. The connections between technical and academic knowledge are supported by a curriculum that embraces internationally minded and globally aware students. 

MSAP Project Director Sara Wheeler is the immediate past president of Magnet Schools of America. With 40-plus years of experience in education, Ms. Wheeler has a wealth of experience and expertise. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and has certifications in Gifted (K-12), middle level education and secondary social studies. Ms. Wheeler joined School District Five in 2013 as the Director of magnet schools and programs. Previously, she served as project director for three MSAP-funded grants and was instrumental in securing the Discover Five MSAP grant.