The three existing elementary magnet schools were started in 2007 in response to Cedar Park and Glacier Hills being classified as "racially identifiable" schools under the state’s Desegregation Rule, based on having enrollments of students of color that were 20 percent higher than the average for all elementary schools in the district.
The desegregation rule states schools and communities must work together to design and implement “educationally justifiable, effective, voluntary strategies that provide meaningful choices of integrated learning environments for students and their families.” The research-based strategy chosen to address the rule, was the development of theme-based magnet schools that offer choice, innovative instruction, and utilized voluntary measures to address racial and socioeconomic segregation at the two schools. Additionally, by offering magnet programming at Diamond Path Elementary and Valley Middle School, enrollment has increased, student diversity is increasingly balanced, additional school choice options and voluntary desegregation has occurred at all magnet schools.
In November 2014, District 196 received notice from MDE that Echo Park and Oak Ridge were racially identifiable elementary schools, requiring the district to develop plans to improve racial balance at both schools. After a process of gathering community and staff input, the school board approved the transition of Echo Park and Oak Ridge to magnet schools.
Overall the goals of magnet programming center around five main areas: diversity, innovative curriculum & PD, academic excellence, high-quality instructional systems, and family & community partnerships.