It’s hard to think about going back to school when summer is still in full swing, but it’s really only a little over a month away. And if you are new to the Charlotte
area or are a parent with preschool age children, deciding where to send your child to school is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make.
With the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system being one of the largest school districts in the nation, there are so many more choices available aside from your neighborhood public school that making that decision can seem a bit overwhelming. There are 159 schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district, including 37 magnet schools. In addition, there are more than 10 charter schools in Charlotte and its surrounding communities.
Magnet and charter schools are still public choices and tuition-free — and in high demand. But before placing your child’s name on any waiting list, it’s important to understand the difference between magnet and charter schools.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system currently offers nine magnet programs in 37 schools.
Unlike the public schools where students are zoned based on the neighborhood in which you live, magnet schools exist outside of zoned school boundaries and students have to apply to be admitted. Magnet schools differ from other public schools in that they usually receive additional funding to enable them to spend more money on their students, supplies, teachers, programs, etc. There are magnets at the elementary, middle, and high school levels
Magnet programs are theme-based and usually have something special to offer over a regular school which makes attending them an attractive choice to many families, thereby increasing the diversity of the student population.
Charter schools provide parents another choice — and it is still a public choice. Public tax dollars are the primary funding source for charter schools; however, the charter school is governed by either a board of parents and community members or a private educational services firm. Charter Schools have a different organizational model (i.e. they have a charter that releases them from the regular public school administration).
The schools have open enrollment with no discrimination, no religious associations and no tuition. The state requires 75 percent of charter school teachers in elementary school to be certified while 50 percent in middle and high school must be certified. However, charter school teachers must follow NCLB requirements for highly qualified staff. All charter schools are required to take the state mandated tests. The NC Department of Public Instruction Charter School Office oversees charter schools across the state.
Playing the Lottery
In the Charlotte area, lottery procedures are often used for admission to both magnet and charter schools. Admission is determined through a random number lottery system. Parents must fill out an application for their preferred school by a set deadline. Applications are then placed into the school’s lottery pool and names are drawn at random for the school’s open slots on a selected date. If your child doesn’t receive admission through the lottery, you can be added to a waiting list and you can also reapply each year.
The great news about Charlotte’s school system is there are many options and families can live in any neighborhood they like and most likely still be able to send their children to the school of their choice.