If “choose a school for 2018” is on your list of things to do after the holidays, you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is taking applications for magnet programs from now through Dec. 18, almost two months earlier than in previous years. That means it’s time to make decisions quickly, especially if you have children who will start kindergarten or prekindergarten in August.
Here are half a dozen key points to know if you’ll have children in school next year.
1. Don’t assume you know the system. Magnet offerings and transportation options are changing in 2018-19, so you need to do your homework. Start at www.CMSChoice.org, which includes lists of open house dates for school visits. Another good link is www.cms.k12.nc.us/cmsdepartments/StudentPlacement.
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2. A crucial deadline for first-time CMS students is even closer. Students who will be 5 by Aug. 31 need to be enrolled with CMS by Dec. 1 to apply for kindergarten magnet seats. The same is true for getting 4-year-olds into the high-demand Montessori magnet schools; because students chosen for prekindergarten take most of the kindergarten spots the next year, it’s much harder to get in after that. Older students coming in from charter, private or home schooling also must enroll now for 2018-19 if they want to enter the lottery.
3. As long as your child is enrolled in time, there’s no advantage to rushing your magnet application. All applications that are filed by Dec. 18 will have equal standing in the lottery, though there are priorities based on socioeconomic status.
4. Students who are assigned to 16 low-scoring schools have additional priorities to opt out, which may help them get into magnet programs or other neighborhood schools. For the first time, this includes future kindergarteners, sixth-graders and ninth-graders who live in those zones but haven’t actually attended yet. Check with CMS about whether your neighborhood qualifies.
5. Families who enter the November-December lottery will be notified of results in early January. There will be other lotteries after that, but most of the seats in popular magnets will be taken.
6. Charter schools aren’t part of CMS. They’re independent public schools that also choose students by lottery if there are more applicants than spaces. Some have started taking 2018 applications now. You can find a list of nearby charter schools at www.ncpublicschools.org/charterschools/schools; go to individual school websites for application details.