Monday, November 09, 2009


by Howard Blume | LA Times LA NOW blog

November 9, 2009 |  6:00 am -- The application deadline for the popular local magnet-school program is three weeks earlier this year. Parents will have only until Dec. 18 to turn in applications for their choice among 173 magnet programs in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Magnets were established in the late 1970s to promote voluntary integration — and in that aspect they have achieved limited success. Still, many have become wildly popular academic showcases for the nation’s second-largest school system. And these attract far more applicants than can be accommodated.

Not long ago, the deadline for applications was in late January, and last year, it was Jan. 9, said Almarie Polk, an administrative assistant with the magnet division. The earlier deadline means parents will find out sooner, probably in April, about whether their child gets into a requested magnet, Polk added.

She said this stepped-up timeline should help parents better manage their choices, including neighborhood schools, charter schools and private schools.

But the driving factor in the shifted deadline is the district’s internal effort to improve its own forecasting of enrollment for the following school year, spokeswoman Ellen Morgan explained in an e-mail.

Brochures, with applications, that explain the different magnet offerings are mailed to parents’ homes, and also can be obtained from local schools and district offices. About 65,000 applications are submitted for an estimated 16,000 openings each year. Current magnet enrollment stands at more than 56,800 students.

The district opened 10 new magnet programs this year, including ones at Mulholland, Burbank and Mount Gleason middle schools, Canoga Park and Reseda high schools and a marine science magnet at Point Fermin Elementary in San Pedro.

Next year, a new math, science and technology magnet is scheduled to open at South East High in South Gate.

The district provides free transportation for magnet students, but the bus rides can be long, and they could be longer than ever in the wake of recent budget cuts. Two other “choice” programs also are part of this application process. Students can apply to enroll in certain “receiver” schools that have space for more students.

And, finally, students have a legal right to attend another school, with free transportation, if their current school has persistently fallen short of required benchmarks on standardized tests.

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