Between now and the February deadline, though, students can only apply to one magnet school. Miracola said this is because Broward wants to give students the best chance of getting into their top choice, as opposed to having students apply to multiple magnets at once.
Broward’s magnet schools began about 30 years ago, and like similar schools across the country, were originally used to encourage desegregation. These days, however, magnets are a key way for school districts to accommodate parents’ desire for choice without losing students to competing charter schools or private schools.
Broward has steadily expanded its magnet offerings in recent years, adding multiple STEM-focused magnets and this year opening a military academy magnet at Hollywood Hills High School. Some 40,000 or so of Broward’s roughly 227,000 students attend a magnet program.
The application requirements for magnets range from demanding to nonexistent. For elementary school students, the only requirement is to submit an application, and be located a reasonable distance from the school (so that bus transportation can be provided). As students get older, the requirements get stiffer — for example, applicants to Dillard High School’s Performing & Visual Arts magnet must “demonstrate creative talent” or show an artistic portfolio during a formal audition.
Increasingly, Broward is operating its magnet programs on a “school-wide” basis — a shift from the days when magnets were thought of as specialized academies that operated inside a larger, general education-focused school.
The goal of offering the magnet curriculum to all students within a school is to make sure that no one is shut out from its benefits. That means some students, simply because of their address, will be zoned to attend a magnet school.
For those students, admission is guaranteed, though the students are free to apply to a magnet elsewhere if they don’t like the specialized theme of their home school. Davie parent Heather Cady lives within Driftwood Middle’s attendance boundaries, and has one daughter attending there now, with another daughter likely to follow in two years.
Driftwood’s health and wellness theme, she said, is general enough that it can be a good fit for many students. For example, the school even includes basic financial skills under that category, something it refers to as “financial wellness.”
“This is a really good program,” Cady said. “It’s life.”