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School Choice and Magnet School Applications Now Open

Students have until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2022, to complete the application process.

Parents have a growing number of options within the public-school sector, making it easier than ever to find the right educational fit for their child. Navigating the choices, however, can be daunting. Below, we offer an overview of the options and application processes.

Attendance Area Schools

Attendance area schools are those set by the Hillsborough County School Board based on a student’s residential address. Westchase and the surrounding Northwest neighborhoods are zoned for top-quality schools across all grade levels, including Westchase, Lowry, Mary Bryant and Deer Park elementary schools; Davidsen and Farnell middle schools; and Alonso and Sickles high schools. Parents can visit http://gis.sdhc.k12.fl.us/schoollocator/ to determine the specific schools their children are zoned for based on the home address.

How to apply: Families do not need to complete an application for their children to attend or remain at their attendance area school; they simply need to register when the child is first entering school. Contact the specific attendance area school for registration information.

Choice Schools

Choice Schools provide families with options to choose non-magnet schools, Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, and the Hillsborough Virtual K-12 program.

Choice Hardship, on the other hand, allows parents and legal guardians with a documented hardship an opportunity to submit a request for a school that is capped for School Choice. Note: Requests are not automatic. Choice Hardship is limited and only available under extreme (documented) hardships.

How to apply: Parents and legal guardians may choose from a list of schools with space available during the application window. Apply at www.hillsboroughschools.org/choice.

School Choice Attractor Programs

Relatively new to the educational mix, School Choice Attractor Programs are focused academies where the education consists of courses and projects that flow from the school’s main emphasis—from aerospace engineering to finance. Find a complete list of attractor schools at www.hillsboroughschools.org/Page/3674.

How to apply: A list of eligible schools appears directly on the school choice application. Students applying for School Choice Attractor Programs at both the middle and high school level must meet proficiency in either Math or Reading on standardized test scores to be considered for an offer. Students applying for the elementary Center for Gifted Studies have additional entrance criteria. Apply at www.hillsboroughschools.org/choice.

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 Westchase families who choose the magnet route. However, there are numerous magnet opportunities that appeal to a wide range of interests, including animal science, architecture, performing arts and many more.

How to apply: Students can apply to up to three elementary magnet schools, five middle school magnet schools and five high school magnet programs. On any level, students may only apply to up to two International Baccalaureate (IB) Magnet programs, and these are no longer restricted by location.

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. Apply online at www.hillsboroughschools.org/choice.

Virtual Schools

Advances in online education have made virtual schools a mainstream choice for today’s students. Hillsborough Virtual School (HVS) is a school choice option for students entering Grades K through 12. HVS students are taught by Hillsborough County teachers for each online class. Families considering online courses should be comfortable using the computer and internet to complete assignments, research and projects, and also be comfortable using email and telephone communication as a primary means for teacher-student and parent-teacher communication.

Students can also take advantage of co-enrollment through HVS, in which students enrolled in full-time public or private school take online classes during or in addition to their school day. Class selection and registration is handled by the guidance counselor at the student’s physical school. Families who wish to home school and file a “Letter of Intent to Home Educate” may use HVS to fulfill curriculum needs.

Other online options to consider include the following: state virtual school programs (Florida Virtual School), virtual charter schools (where available) and virtual programs operated by other school districts.

How to apply: For HVS, visit www.hillsboroughschools.org/hvk12 or call (813) 983-7278 to see a list of courses, and to review the eligibility requirements and application process. For Florida Virtual school, visit https://flvs.net/. For more on virtual education throughout Florida, visit www.fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/virtual-edu/.

Application Window

The first application window for Choice Schools, Magnet Schools and Attractor Programs is now open and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2022. Families will be notified by mid-January 2023. The HVS application period for second semester (beginning January 2023) is also open through Dec. 16, 2022.

To learn more about all of these options, visit www.hillsboroughschools.org/choice.

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