For Broward parents, sorting through the more than 60 public school magnet programs now available — options as varied as architecture or marine science, ranging from kindergarten to high school — might seem like a daunting task. But with the help of school open houses, informative online web chats, and the time remaining before the Feb. 13 application deadline, finding the right program can be easy, experts say.
“Just do your homework,” advises Lucia Troche, a social studies teacher at Driftwood Middle School in Hollywood, which offers a health-and-wellness themed magnet program. “Come to the school. Have a tour so you can see what it is like on a daily basis.”
Driftwood held its parent open house last week, but most others have yet to do so, meaning parents have a wealth of visiting opportunities remaining before the application deadline. At Driftwood, parents and prospective students were greeted at the door by the boisterous sounds of the school’s jazz band.
Once inside, families mingled with Driftwood’s six-foot-tall red cardinal mascot, and parents posed questions to a small army of gathered teachers and administrators. Students played interactive learning games, plucked strawberries from Driftwood’s “Environmental Wellness Garden,” and swung hula hoops to dance music blaring inside the school’s basketball gym.
Kayla Plante, 11, left the event sold on Driftwood as her future school. She has plans to one day be a doctor.
“I just love to help people out,” Kayla explained. “I just love the feeling of making them well, making them better.”
Elementary school students don’t have to choose a career path to take advantage of the programs, as some focus on a general area of study (such as science, math and technology, or STEM) that can be applied to a variety of future occupations.
One of Broward’s most popular magnet offerings, the district’s Montessori schools, isn’t occupation-based at all. Instead, the three Montessori magnets offer an alternative, more individualized learning environment that seeks to engage students by appealing to their natural curiosities and personal interests.
But the Montessori schools also demonstrate one of the drawbacks to applying for magnet programs: Admission is no sure thing.
For the most popular programs, the number of applicants regularly exceeds the number of available seats. In such instances, students are selected through a computerized lottery process.
Last year, the district’s system-wide magnet acceptance rate was 44 percent, but that number can make getting into a magnet seem more difficult than it actually is. Only 13 magnet programs had excess applicants (and therefore a lottery) while the other 50 programs were able to accept every qualified applicant.
“You have a fairly good opportunity to be in a magnet program,” said Leona Miracola, director of Broward’s Innovative Programs department. Even students who lose out in the lottery may be able to get a spot later on in the year.
Even at high-demand magnets, families sometimes move, or students change their mind and want to go somewhere else, creating last-minute openings. For magnets that have seats available, Broward continues accepting student applications for months after the Feb. 13 deadline — that means students who don’t get into their first-choice magnet school can still likely find another similar magnet that has space available.