Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Considering Wake magnet schools? Some tips

Posted January 16, 2011 8:09 p.m. EST
Updated February 8, 2011 11:36 a.m. EST

The Wake County magnet school application period runs for two weeks next month. But for many of you, the process started months ago as you began wondering where your rising kindergartner, middle schooler or high schooler will go to next year.

Wake's magnet school program, with locations across the county, aim to reduce high concentrations of poverty, maximize use of school facilities and provide expanded educational opportunities. The schools offer extra classes, programs and activities for students from foreign languages for kindergartners to opportunities for high schoolers to earn college credits.

There's a lot to know and figure out if you're considering a magnet school for your child. Check Wake County's magnet school website for details.

But there are a few tips I can share after talking with several moms who went through the application process. They include Lindy Cross, whose son attends Powell GT Magnet Elementary School. Learn more about her experience and tips in the video. And I spoke with magnet school staff, including David Ansbacher, senior director of Wake's magnet programs.

Here are some key tips:

  • Know the dates. The online application process runs from (update) Feb. 21 to March 7. As scheduled now, applicants should find out the decision by late March.
  • Enroll your child in her base school before applying to a magnet program. Kindergarten registration begins on Feb. 3. So be sure to do that before you try to apply. This also includes kids who are in the process of moving from another district (as long as they meet the residency requirements here).
  • Visit the schools. Each magnet school offers regular tours. Just call the school office to find out when they are and sign up. Open houses at the schools also are scheduled in the next few weeks. They are Feb. 9 at elementary schools, Feb. 10 at middle schools and at different times at many of the high schools. Click here for elementary school open houses. And click here for more on the middle school and high school events.
  • Talk to staff at the magnet resource center at 1600 E. Millbrook Rd. in north Raleigh. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Call ahead on Fridays when staff is sometimes available. The number is 919-501-7900.

About 21 percent of Wake's students are enrolled in magnet programs, according to Wake schools. And in spring 2009, just more than 50 percent of applications were accepted. As many parents know, there are no guarantees.

The first 10 percent of applications are selected totally at random, Ansbacher told me. After that, the school's capacity is considered. For kids entering middle and high school, magnet school elementary students will get priority as long as they follow their "pathway"

"It is as close to a straight lottery as it can be," Ansbacher told me. "The only factor considered now is the capacity or crowding at your current school. If you are coming from a school that is lower enrolled, you'll be at a lower priority than if you’re coming from an over-enrolled school."

Ansbacher recommends parents visit as many schools as they can, including their base school.

 "It’s always better to apply to more than one," he said. "Really take the time to visit as many as well as your base school to get a sense of the options. There’s not a danger of applying to more than one."