Home News Magnet school or choice school: What’s the best school for your children?

Magnet school or choice school: What’s the best school for your children?

Magnet school or choice school: What’s the best school for your children?

Want to send your child to the school closest to your office or babysitter instead of the one zoned for your neighborhood?

It’s possible to choose your child’s school, but applications — and a little luck, in some cases — are required. Each Treasure Coast district has different deadlines and procedures for parents looking for school choice.

School choice

State law allows parents some choice in where their children attend, but choice comes with restrictions. School districts may limit choice to schools where there is available capacity.

Indian River County schools allows parents to choose from any school as long as there is adequate space, explained Heather Holden. director of assessment, virtual and home education. Schools have capacity unless they are 95% filled, she said. Some schools, such as Treasure Coast Elementary, often reach that limit before the first lottery is held in January, Holden said.

Staff from Vero Beach Elementary School welcomes students back for the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. Students returned from summer break to fully in-person classes with no mask mandate.

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Lotteries are conducted in January, March, May and at the end of June, she said. Applications are due by Jan. 15 for the first lottery, and reopen for subsequent lotteries.

Parents must provide transportation, but there are bus pickup spots throughout the district for children attending choice schools, Holden said.

The district wants parents to have as many choices as possible, and passes no judgment on why a parent chooses to send his or her child to a different school, Holden said.

“We want to be able to meet the needs of all of our students,” Holden said.

In St. Lucie schools, students must attend the school where they are zoned unless they are accepted into a magnet school or special program within a school, said Michelle Jerger, director of student assignment. The district will compile a list of schools next semester that anticipate available capacity for 2023-2024 so parents can consider sending their children outside their zoned schools, Jerger said.

Martin County parents have a little additional time to submit applications. The school-choice process there begins in March and closes in July, spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo said. Parents can apply for their children to attend any school they choose as long as there is capacity, she said. The district compiles its list of available choice schools in January or February, DeShazo said. Parents must provide their own transportation.

The first day of school, Monday, August 13, 2018, at Creative Arts Academy of St. Lucie, a new K-8 school in Fort Pierce, part of St. Lucie Public Schools in St. Lucie County. "The first day is always an exciting day, the kids are excited to come back, their teachers are all excited, and we're just looking forward to another great year," said Wayne Gent, Superintendent of St. Lucie Public Schools.

Magnet schools

Magnet schools are different from school choice. In Indian River County, applications for the district’s three magnet schools — Liberty, Osceola and Rosewood — are due Jan. 15. Online applications are put into an electronic lottery. Siblings of current students are given priority in the magnet lottery, Holden said.

Don’t worry if you apply for your children at the last minute, either. Applications received on the due date have the same chance of getting selected as those submitted in November, she said.

“It is a random lottery,” Holden said.

The application period for St. Lucie County schools’ six magnet schools — Creative Arts Academy of St. Lucie, Fairlawn Elementary, Fort Pierce Westwood Academy, Frances K. Sweet Elementary, Lincoln Park Academy and Samuel S. Gaines Academy of Emerging Technologies — close Jan. 4 for early admission, according to Jerger.

How popular at these St. Lucie schools? The district allows parents to place their children on a waitlist for the magnet schools as soon as they have a birth certificate. Parents have been known to sign up their newborns for entry into Lincoln Park Academy, which starts in sixth grade.

“The earlier you get on the list, the better chance you have of getting into the school,” Jerger said.

Martin County has no magnet schools.

Rivers Edge Elementary School first grader Aaliyah Joseph, 6, and her father David Joseph, of Port St. Lucie, is greeted by Kids at Hope project coordinator Kevin Singletary on the first day of school, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. School students and their families were greeted with words of encouragement by members and staff of St. Lucie Public Schools, the Children's Services Council, St. Lucie Fire Rescue and the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office at the Kids at Hope sponsored tunnel of hope. "I'm excited. This is going to be a great year. It's really nice to have the kids back on campus," said principal Jennifer Ingersoll. "They're pretty awesome," she said of the 650 students who attend Voluntary Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade at the school.

Attractor programs

Applications for St. Lucie County’s special attractor programs, highly rigorous academic programs, are due Jan. 6. Students must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average and successful test scores to be considered for the competitive programs that include Embry-Riddle Aerospace Academy at Fort Pierce Central High School and the Marine and Oceanographic Academy at Fort Pierce Westwood High School, Jerger said.

Indian River and Martin school districts also have attractor programs, which require separate applications. Students who apply for an attractor program outside their zoned school must also apply for school choice, officials said. Students approved for an attractor program get priority with school choice, officials said. For example, students who are accepted into the Cambridge academic program at Martin County High School automatically get approval through school choice if they are out-of-zone. That requires parents to submit both applications, DeShazo said.


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