National Grant Fortifies SDUSD Arts Magnet Schools


This spring, San Diego Unified was one of nine districts selected for a prestigious U.S. Department of Education grant. Called the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, or MSAP, the grant provides $15 million over five years for significantly revised arts magnet programs at Freese Elementary, Webster Elementary, CPMA, and SDSCPA.

The goal of the MSAP grant is to increase diversity and minimize minority isolation in the school populations. The San Diego Unified proposal, titled Amplifying the Arts in the San Diego Unified School District, presents research showing that learning in the arts is linked to improved academic performance. As part of MSAP, each of these magnet schools will receive an infusion of the arts, implemented and supervised by a MSAP Program Manager and MSAP Resource Teachers as well as site teachers and leaders. MSAP Resource Teacher Laura Schiavo says, “Through this grant, we will be able to increase diversity at each of the four schools, giving students not only unparalleled access to phenomenal arts programs and opportunities, but an amazing avenue to gain a variety of different life perspectives and increased creativity and innovation. We are so excited to be part of this work.”

The grant goes about strengthening the arts at these schools from a variety of angles. One method is providing professional learning for all teachers in discipline-specific or arts-integrated curriculum design using the California Arts Standards. Another method is developing enhanced arts and culture partnerships, and yet another is increasing arts exhibitions, performances, and projects that engage school families and communities. Additionally, SDSCPA will pursue national arts school accreditation. This influx of funding, resources, and professional learning will bring new energy to the schools. Schools expect to see increased enrollment as students seek access to these new arts opportunities and the benefits of enhanced academic achievement that follows in the wake of arts learning.


“Creativity Lives Here,” touts the logo for Creative Performing, and Media Arts (CPMA) Middle School. The school, located in the Clairemont area and open to grades 6-8, focuses on high expectations and individual academic success through an artistic lens. Their challenging, standards-based instructional program is coupled with specialized training in the creative, performing, and media arts. Students interested in enrolling at CPMA should have a strong interest in exploring their talents and abilities in the visual and performing arts and arts-based technology. “CPMA is a great school to continue a student’s love for arts or wanting to discover the arts,” says CPMA Magnet Coordinator Cody Smith. CPMA is proud to offer courses and opportunities in the visual arts, performing arts (dance, theatre, choir, band, orchestra, and jazz), and media/technical arts (technical theatre, video production).


At the San Diego School of the Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), the arts are core and essential areas of study. Students in grades 6-12 take arts courses in their major area alongside standard graduation requirements, nurturing excellence in both through a rigorous dual curriculum and preparing students for post-secondary opportunities in college or conservatory. “Our students represent the top 1-15% of arts candidates in the nation,” says SDSCPA Artistic Director Richard Trujillo. “Admissions representatives don’t just come to SDSCPA to present, they come to recruit.” At SDSCPA, you can “Live Your Passion” in the Performing Arts (acting, dance, musical theatre, vocal arts, or instrumental music) and the Creative Arts (visual arts, cinematic arts, creative writing, or technical theatre).

It is incredible that the high-quality arts programs and resources provided by MSAP at CPMA and SCPA are open to all students inside – and even outside – the district. While San Diego Unified has quality schools in every neighborhood, not every school can have all programs. The choice program allows families to apply to the school that best fits their needs. To apply, parents should fill out the SDUSD Choice Application during the choice window of October 4 to November 15. Students who are continuing from a specific magnet program theme from elementary to middle, or middle to high school – such current SDSCPA 8th graders who plan to audition for the high school program – are given top priority. The choice lottery occurs in mid-February, and families are contacted in the order assigned by the lottery, based on space available at the school.

In addition, all students desiring to attend SDSCPA need to audition. Students in incoming grades 6 and 7 should submit a video explaining and showing their artistic passion in a way of their choice (no specific skills required). Students in incoming grades 8-12 must submit a portfolio or audition video according to specific criteria. Students currently at SCPA do not need to audition, except for 8th graders. Visit the SDSCPA Audition website for more information. The online audition submission window opens October 11, and closes December 18. Students desiring to attend CPMA do not need to audition.

Prospective families interested in an arts magnet education and the expanding opportunities afforded by the MSAP grant may find it valuable to explore CPMA and SDSCPA further.

  • SDSCPA holds virtual meetings for prospective families throughout the fall: October 13 and November 3 at 6pm, and October 16 and November 13 at 10am.
  • CPMA has a prospective family meeting on November 2 at 7:30pm, and offers school tours every Thursday morning. Sign-ups for these tours, as well as a virtual school tour video, are available on their website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *