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Stepping Up: Preparing for high school

Posted November 3, 2015

Here you go! It's time for kids and parents to get real about the future and the options as they head into high school. There's not a lot of time to slack off at this stage (at least, that's what the experts tell me).

At this point, parents might have the system down if their kids entered the Wake County Public School System when they were itty bitty kindergartners. Kids might just be on a path that parents mapped out for them ages ago.

But, there are still choices, including some newer ones for families to consider among Wake's high school options. Wake has 27 high schools plus early college and leadership academies that offer teens the opportunity to leave high school with a diploma and college credit.

Let's take a look. (We covered elementary school and middle school earlier this week).

What are my options?

There is your base option, of course, which you can determine by looking up your address on Wake schools' address look-up site. That site also will list your other high school-level choices.

Even if you plan on moving up to your base school, it's best to check in on the school's website or call the school's office to find out about any upcoming open houses or tours planned. Those tours and open houses are opportunities to meet with a schools' administration and teaching staff; learn more about the school culture; meet some students; and get excited about the next four years.

Also, check with your middle school's guidance counselor, who can provide some help during this process.

How can I learn about my magnet options?

If you're considering your magnet options, the best place to start is the upcoming Magnet School Fair, which is 9 a.m. to noon, Nov. 7, at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School. Representatives from every single magnet school in the county will be there to answer your questions.

In addition to the traditional magnet schools, high schoolers have some other options, which they also can investigate at the magnet fair. They include the Wake Young Men's and Young Women's leadership academies, covering both middle school and high school; the Early College high schools; and the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy.

What are these leadership academies, early colleges and career academy?

The leadership academies are single-gender campuses covering sixth to twelfth grade near downtown Raleigh. They offer an early college component at St. Augustine's University, which allow students to earn college credits while still in high school. Students have the option of staying for a 13th year to accumulate up to two years of college credits towards a Bachelor's degree (for free!). They also are the only public schools in Wake County to require a uniform. Kids in sixth to tenth grade wear uniforms.

Upcoming sessions at the leadership academies will offer more information. The Young Women's Leadership Academy, 303 Ashe Ave., Raleigh, will hold an information session at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 5. The Young Men's academy, 567 E. Hargett St., Raleigh, will host a session at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 12.

Wake's early college programs are offered at the Wake Early College of Health and Sciences, a five-year program that allows students to pursue health and science instruction through Wake Tech and WakeMed, and Wake STEM Early College, also a five-year program for kids interested in STEM careers. Students graduate with both a high school diploma and associate's degree, leaving with up to two years of college credit (for free!).

The Wake STEM Early College will hold information sessions at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 3 and Nov. 17. The Wake Early College of Health and Sciences will hold a session at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 4.

Finally, the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy, a collaboration between Wake Tech and Wake schools, offers career training for teens such as plumbing; simulation and game development; cosmetology; and more. Students can continue on to a four-year college or apply credits earned toward a program at Wake Tech.

The Vernon Malone academy will hold an information session at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 19.

Now is the time to apply for these leadership academies, career academy and early colleges. The application period for these schools started last month. It runs through Dec. 14. Students are selected based on prioritized criteria.

But these are different from magnet schools? Right?

Right. They are different from Wake's magnet schools, which have a separate online application period in January. Magnet high schools set their own schedules for open houses.

Here's the schedule:

  • 5:30 p.m., Nov. 12 and Jan. 12, Broughton Magnet High School
  • 6:30 p.m., Nov. 19, Garner Magnet High School
  • 6:30 p.m., Nov. 19 and Jan. 13, Millbrook Magnet High School
  • 6:30 p.m., Dec. 3, Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School
  • 6:30 p.m., Jan. 7, Enloe Magnet High School

So when is the application period for the magnet high schools?

Just like magnet elementary and middle schools, the online application period for magnet high schools is Jan. 7 to Jan. 22. Families are welcome to fill out the application, ranking their top picks, at any time during this period (no preference is given to those who, for instance, filled it out Jan. 7 compared to those who completed it on Jan. 20). Families will learn on Feb. 5 if they've been selected to attend a school.

If you are new to the system - maybe your child was homeschooled or attended a private or charter school or just moved to Wake County - you will need to register your child at her base school before you can apply for a magnet seat. New student registration begins Jan. 7.

Keep in mind:

All students, who are currently attending magnet middle schools and want to follow their magnet pathway into high school, must apply, though they have high priority in the selection process.

If a student is attending his base middle school and plans on moving up to his base high school, he does not need to do anything.

When I go on these tours and information sessions, what should I ask?

For college-bound students, the big questions will focus around college prep - what sorts of Advanced Placement classes are offered, what type of assistance do guidance counselors provide, how do schools prepare students for that next step.

You might also want to ask about sports opportunities; clubs and academic teams; internships and externships; how much homework to expect; access to technology - the student's own and the school's; and annual school events and fundraisers.

Also, take a look at the career academies that are offered at the high schools you're considering to see if that's something your child would be interested in. Wake schools' website also offers an overview of its high school programs and offerings.

Can I do this a year in advance?

Sure. If you'd like to better understand what's available to your child, there's no harm in looking a little early. A great place to learn more about the various schools is at the Magnet School Fair this Saturday (see above for details).

What are my kid's chances of actually getting into a magnet school?

As I've said before, I'm not going to even attempt to answer that one! There's a formula involved that depends on your neighborhood, whether your base school is crowded and other categories. Wake County schools breaks it down on its website.

Join me, WRAL anchor Kathryn Brown and and Tamani Anderson Powell, director of Wake County Public School System's magnet and curriculum enhancement programs, at 10 a.m., Wednesday, for a live webchat. If you have questions, be sure to share them here on Go Ask Mom, @GoAskMom on Twitter (use #SteppingUp) or on Go Ask Mom's Facebook page.

Live Q&A Stepping Up: Questions for parents


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