The Arabic Immersion Magnet School (AIMS) opened its doors in fall 2015. Located at the site of the former Holden Elementary, it currently serves only PreK-4 students, but it will expand to a PreK-8 program by 2024.
AIMS is a unique institution – the first and only public Arabic immersion school in the country. It was founded with the mission of creating “global citizens” fluent in Modern Standard Arabic and capable of cross-cultural communication and understanding. It has also been touted as a service to Houston’s diverse community, as Arabic is the second most common foreign language spoken at home by Houston’s school-age children.
As a magnet school within HISD, AIMS has no religious affiliation. Students’ religious convictions do not factor into admissions, and the curriculum does not include theological material. While there is no institutionalized prayer in the school, there is a daily minute of silence during which students may choose to pray. Additionally, absences due to religious holidays do not count against a student’s record, though the student is still responsible for make-up work.
The Arabic Immersion Magnet School recently relocated to the former campus of Kinder High School for Performing and Visual Arts — a move designed to accommodate the school’s growing student population and transformation to a PK-8 campus. The new location at 4001 Stanford St. is just seven miles south of the original AIMS campus on West 28th Street in the Heights. The new campus will provide a more central, neighborhood location while still maintaining proximity to the original campus. Additionally, the new building has space for the school to expand, including areas for fine arts, physical education, and a growing pre-kindergarten program.
In order to apply for the magnet program at AIMS, students must complete an online or paper application and send additional materials to the school by mail. The online application can be accessed through the Magnet Website at www.houstonisd.org/magnet. Students applying for 2nd-4th grade will need to complete an Arabic assessment prior to being accepted at AIMS.
Additional requirements for the application process:
- For PreK applicants, the additional materials consist of proof of age 4 by September and proof of HISD residency.
- For kindergarten applicants, the additional materials consist of proof of age 5 by September, proof of HISD residency, and a PreK progress report (if applicable).
- For older applicants, the additional materials consist of proof of HISD residency, the previous year’s final report card, and the report card from the first grading period of the current year.
Current HISD students may not need to submit additional documentation.
HISD residents should apply during the Phase 1 application window, which lasts from late September until early December for the subsequent school year, and admitted students are notified by late March. Admission is based on the lottery system, and all students have an equal chance of admission.
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AIMS incorporates language immersion into every aspect of its curriculum. 50% of instruction is given in English, and 50% is given in Arabic. Students learn in both languages across all subjects, building their competence in Arabic even as they learn the core content and skills of a standard elementary school curriculum. In addition to the core subjects, PE, art, and music are offered as electives.
Accommodations are available for students with special needs who meet the requirements for admission. If the parents already have documentation about the student’s special needs, the school will need a copy of that documentation. After receiving the documentation, the school will set up an annual ARD meeting that the parents, the student, an administrator, a core subject teacher, a special education teacher or 504 representative, and an HISD advocate will attend to discuss the specific modifications necessary for the student and to create an individualized education plan (IEP) for the student. Every teacher will receive a copy of the modifications for the student after they are set in the ARD meeting.
If the parents want to request modifications for their child, then the special education teacher will give the student’s teachers paperwork to document the student’s behavior and any modifications the teacher uses for the student. After 6 weeks of documentation, the teachers will turn in the paperwork, and the special education teacher or 504 representative will call a meeting similar to an ARD meeting. If the meeting determines that the student needs accommodation, then the school will have documentation of the student’s special needs and will follow the same procedures as above.
Modern Standard Arabic is the sole foreign language offered at AIMS. It is mandatory for all students from PreK onwards. Language learning at the school is based on an immersion model, in which 50% of instruction is given in English and 50% is given in Arabic. The immersion-based learning is supplemented by classroom instruction for grammar and vocabulary. Content about the culture of Arabic-speaking nations is also integrated into the curriculum.
There is a long-term plan to offer Spanish as an ancillary class, but this has not yet been implemented.
The Arabic Immersion Magnet school offers visual arts and music as ancillary classes.
AIMS uses Smart Boards and Smart Tables for classroom instruction, and iPads are available for in-classroom use.
The Arabic Immersion Magnet School offers after-school child care through CIASP, The Children’s Initiative After-School Program, which offers play and homework support. This programming is available for a fee, and space is limited; children are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.
AIMS does not field any interscholastic sports teams. However, physical activity is integrated into the curriculum through PE.
Parents can volunteer at AIMS through HISD’s Volunteers in Public Schools program. The school also has a Shared Decision Making Committee, through which interested parents can join with teachers and community members to advise the principal on important administrative matters.