Baton Rouge Magnet High School remains by far the most popular public magnet school in the Capital City, but Lee High School is steadily increasing in popularity, according to the latest application numbers.
More than 3,700 students have applied so far for spots in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system’s magnet program for the 2016-17 school year. The initial application period ran from Oct. 12 to Dec. 5. More than 2,500 acceptance notices were mailed out in mid-January.
The school system’s Magnet Office has since reopened applications for the schools that have yet to fill up and the applications are flowing in again.
“It’s been so busy. We don’t take lunch. We’re just inhaling food,” said Theresa Porter, director of magnet programs. “People are applying, calling, emailing. It’s been continuous.”
Baton Rouge Magnet High, though, is finished for the year. Every one of its more than 500 open spots are filled.
“In the 14 years I’ve been here, I don’t think we’ve ever had another application period for Baton Rouge High,” Porter said.
The East Baton Rouge Parish school system’s flagship school, however, still has a long waiting list, but the number of applications has declined by about 200 over the past two years.
Lee High may be the reason. That high school, which reopened in 2012 after three years of being shuttered, has steadily grown and now has more than 430 students. In 2013, the school system made it a dedicated, or schoolwide, magnet school. In September, the School Board went further and raised its admission standards so they are on par with Baton Rouge High.
So far, Lee has filled 376 slots for the 2016-17 school year. Though its ninth grade is nearly full, there is still space in its upper grades, and it will continue to receive applications through Thursday. Lee already has received nearly double the number of applicants this year over what it has in past years.
Lee is readying to move back to its original home at 1105 Lee Drive and into a $54.7 million facility, which has space to educate as many as 1,200 students. The rebuilt Lee High School will open in August with three themed academies: bioscience; digital and media arts; and engineering and robotics. The emphasis will be on learning through projects and applying scientific data and research. The school also will have an extensive partnership with LSU.
The expansion and reconstruction of the high school has sparked concern that its growth will come at the expense of other college prep schools, including McKinley and Woodlawn high schools, which both have sizeable gifted programs. So far, Porter said, no more students are leaving the gifted program for the magnet program this year than in years past.
She said it likely will be another two years before she will have a good idea of how attractive Lee High truly is.
“We really won’t know the impact of a lot of things until the school is open a full year,” she said.
Magnet programs, which began as a desegregation tool, are specialized programs designed to be so appealing, so magnetic, that they draw a diverse set of students. The school system’s magnet program has steadily grown, including several new additions created in the past few years. They collectively educate about 7,500 children, or about 18 percent of the students in the school system.
The most recent magnet programs were launched over the summer at Capitol and Southeast middle schools. Eight and 12 new students have signed up, respectively, for those two programs for the 2016-17 school year.
Also still trying to gain traction are foreign language immersion classes in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish at Polk Elementary school that launched in August 2014. The program goes by the name BR FLAIM II, and is a satellite of the popular foreign language immersion school Baton Rouge Foreign Language Academic Immersion Magnet, known as BR FLAIM.
Last year, BR FLAIM II enrolled 38 students in Mandarin and 60 students in Spanish. Sixteen and 18 students have been assigned to those programs, respectively, for 2016-17 so far.
More successful out of the gate has been Mayfair Lab School. Opened in 2013, the elementary school quickly earned an A letter grade and hasn’t looked back. It has almost 300 students in prekindergarten to fifth grade and is adding a sixth grade next year. It has received 161 applications for next year and has placed 96 students.
A few programs that still have openings are likely to fill up later. For instance, last year, Scotlandville High School received nearly half of its roughly 200 applications in late spring after the initial application period. Porter said schools such as Scotlandville High get a rush of late interest from families who shop later in the year for magnet schools, and she expects that will occur this spring as well.
Dufrocq Elementary School has two magnet programs. Its academic magnet program is similar to Scotlandville High in that it usually doesn’t fill up right way. It has received 136 applications this year and placed 110 students.
The story is much different for Dufrocq’s Montessori program, arguably the most coveted magnet program in town. This year, 328 families applied for 28 spots, which has resulted in a 300-person waiting list. No other magnet program comes even close to that level of demand versus supply.
“They’re so excited when they get that letter of acceptance,” said Mary Robvais, the longtime principal of Dufrocq, which is located at 330 S. 19th St.
“The word goes out in the community,” she said. “People know that our students go on to be very successful.”