ISLESBORO — There are a lot of ways for kids to get to school these days. Some can walk to school, while others drive themselves or catch a ride with parents or friends. Many others take the bus. Each has its unique circumstances and challenges.

For a quarter of the students currently attending Islesboro Central School, the above modes of transport are just the first step in a two-part process of attending school.

For nearly three decades, Islesboro Central School, a K-12 school located on the island, has accepted magnet students from the mainland.

The school is currently accepting applications for magnet attendance for the 2023-24 school year. ICS has openings in grades 6-10 and 12.

“The ICS magnet program started in the early 1990s, with just a few students,” said ICS Principal Kate Legere. “The goal was to add to the smaller student body to enrich the social aspect of learning.”

ICS has a current K-12 enrollment of 79 students, 19 of whom come from the mainland. ICS accepts magnet students only in grades 6-12.

Magnet students who attend ICS must first get themselves to the ferry terminal in Lincolnville. From there, they take a short ferry trip over to classes in the middle of Penobscot Bay. At the end of the school day, the process reverses.

Why?

“Smaller class sizes, individualized instruction and attention, and a caring community,” Legere said about the school’s attraction for magnet students. “It’s a unique atmosphere. Because the staff know the student so well, (students) enjoy a level of trust and autonomy that would be hard to allow at a larger school. We don’t have a one size, fits all approach to learning and behavior. We have the time to figure out what works best for each individual student.”

Magnet students ride the Maine State Ferry from Lincolnville to Islesboro free of charge. ICS has community partnerships with island residents that allow some magnet students to stay with host families as needs arise.

Enrollment is managed with an eye toward keeping student-teacher ratios at a minimum.

“We are the island’s only school,” Legere said, “and we are public. We could not, and don’t want to, limit the number of island residents to a class. Class sizes vary. Most have fewer than 12 students. Once any grade level is at 12 students, we don’t take any new magnet students into that grade.”

Over the past 30 years the number of magnet students attracted by ICS has gradually grown, with parents enamored with the more personalized manner of instruction offered. The simple act of getting to school each day teaches magnet students the island qualities of resilience and independence.

Once at school, magnet students can take advantage of the 5.3-to-1 student-teacher ratio and are welcome to participate in the school’s co-curricular and extra-curricular programs. The school offers a broad array of advanced placement programming and boasts a 100% graduation rate. Over the past five years, 75% of Islesboro graduates have pursued post-secondary education.

Legere notes that the personal touch afforded by ISC is a primary factor in the school’s success.

“Teachers can easily find out how a student learns best and provide activities tailored to those learning styles,”she said.

ICS sophomore and magnet student Rosie Brimley was attracted to the more personalized instruction offered at the island school, but adds there is so much more.

“Another thing that appealed to me was the opportunities outside of school, like the Pathways program and the Geiger Scholarship,” Brimley said. ” Those programs provide incredible experiences outside of school specifically tailored to your likes and possibly career goals.

“For example, a couple of years ago two students went on the semester at sea program, and attended school on a boat for a semester, as one if not both are interested into going into the marine field in his future.”