A majority of parents in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District are willing to send their children to a magnet school, according to a district survey, and the most popular option for parents would focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

The school board discussed the magnet school programs at a workshop Thursday night as part of an effort to determine whether the district wants to start a magnet. The district has been labeled by the state as "racially isolated" because of the disparity in the percentage of minority students in the Burnsville district as compared with surrounding districts. Burnsville is considering a magnet school to ease that disparity.

"One attractive aspect of having magnet programs is that it would serve as an option for families," said Assistant Superintendent Aldo Sicoli.

Districts create magnet schools to emphasize a particular theme or subject area.

More than 3,500 surveys were completed by parents and students in grades 8-10. Parents overwhelmingly gravitated toward the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, being pushed by the state Education Department.

The most popular program among students was in performing and fine arts.

State law mandates that neighboring school districts with a more than 20 percentage-point difference in populations of students of color create plans to alleviate that disparity.

In Burnsville-Eagan-Savage, 31 percent of the students 1are students of color, while in neighboring Lakeville, only 9 percent of students aren't white.

In March, the districts approved a four-year integration plan that includes hiring more teachers of color, encouraging students to participate in school programs and activities together and looking at creating magnet schools.

The state provides money for establishing integration programs.

In Burnsville, parents considered the type of program the most important factor in deciding whether they would send their child to a magnet.

Any Burnsville-Eagan-Savage magnet would be in collaboration with Lakeville. Any such program would also be open to Lakeville students.

In Burnsville, the Magnet Task Force plans to recommend to the district's superintendent by the end of the school year whether a magnet would be a good fit for District 191.

Emily Johns • 952-882-9056