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School Choice and Magnet School Applications Open Nov. 2

Facing a shorter window this year, students will have until Dec. 11 to complete the application process.

In addition to the numerous private schools throughout Tampa Bay, parents also have a plethora of options within the public school sector, including magnet, school choice and attractor programs within Hillsborough County. Applications for these programs open on Nov. 2 and close on Dec. 11 – a shorter application window than in previous years. Below we offer an overview of these options to help your family make an informed decision.

School Choice
The School Choice program offers parents and guardians of children entering kindergarten through 11th grade the option of applying to up to three non-magnet schools or Career & Technical Education (CTE) attractor schools outside their attendance area. Relatively new to the educational mix, CTE attractor schools are focused academies where the education consists of courses and projects that flow from the school’s main emphasis – from bio-engineering to finance to film production.

Transportation: Transportation may be limited or unavailable in some areas.

Application Process: The application for currently enrolled K through fourth grade students and all students applying to middle and high school begins Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 11. Families will be notified in late January 2021. These students can apply online at www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/departments/95/hillsborough-choice-options. A list of eligible schools appears directly on the school choice application. (Note: students new to Hillsborough County Public Schools are required to complete a paper application.)

Magnet Schools
Magnet schools are public elementary, middle and high schools that offer a theme-based curriculum with real world implications. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and IB (International Baccalaureate) programs are particularly popular among Northwest families who choose the magnet route. However, there are numerous magnet opportunities that appeal to a wide range of interests, including animal science, architecture and performing arts to name a few.

Transportation: Transportation is available for most magnet schools. In some areas, transportation may be limited.

Application Process: The application period for students currently enrolled in K through fourth grade and all students applying to middle and high school begins Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 11. Families will be notified in late January 2021. These students can apply online at www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/departments/95/hillsborough-choice-options. (Note: students new to Hillsborough County Public Schools or coming from private school are required to complete a paper application.)

Students may apply to the magnet schools of their choice. It is important to note that students wanting to apply to an IB program are no longer restricted by address. Students can apply to any of the IB programs in Hillsborough County, including the new IB program that launched at Alonso High School in 2020. Students can apply to a total of two IB programs.

Selection for elementary or middle magnet schools is done by computer lottery. Applications for all high school magnet programs are evaluated on a competitive basis, with the exception of the Alonso IB program. Students meeting the application criteria are entered into a lottery. This year, in lieu of the traditional parent information nights that cover both school choice and magnet options for prospective elementary, middle and high school students, the district will be hosting a number of virtual events.

Visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/docs/00/00/02/30/registrationeventschedule.pdf to find the schedule of events. All families must register using the links provided for the event they want to attend. Registration links will be made available approximately one week before each event.

We are fortunate to live within neighborhoods that offer top-notch attendance area schools; however, for those seeking a particular educational track for their child, magnet and school choice options offer a world of possibilities. It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all option. With so many great options in our area, it really is hard to go wrong.

By Karen Ring

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