School shopping has begun for families interested in landing a spot in one of East Baton Rouge Parish’s magnet programs.
Those on the hunt have eight more schools to choose from than they did a year ago. That brings to 25 the number of schools with magnet programs set to be operating during the 2018-19 school years.
All of the schools offering magnet programs had information booths at this year's Magnet Mania Saturday at Baton Rouge Community College's Magnolia Theater.
Applications, however, can only be submitted online and families could begin the process at midnight on Sunday. The application deadline is midnight Dec. 4.
Last year, the parish school system opted not to hold Magnet Mania because people were so busy dealing with the aftermath of the August 2016 flood, said Theresa Porter, director of magnet programs.
In the past, Magnet Mania has been staged at Cortana Mall, but school officials welcomed the opportunity to instead hold it at Baton Rouge Community College this year.
“When we realized that students could perform on an actual stage rather than in the court area of Cortana, that was a big draw,” Porter said.
Most of the 25 schools with magnet programs have already had open houses or “showcases” over the past week on their campuses to highlight their varied offerings. A few schools have multiple magnet programs in the same building. Scotlandville High has the most with five.
Magnet programs began as a desegregation tool and are specialized programs designed to draw a diverse set of students. Many, but not all, have selective admissions requirements. All require students to keep up their grades to remain enrolled.
They are popular in Baton Rouge, especially the largest magnet school in town, Baton Rouge Magnet High School, which is the best known and oldest. About 8,600 children currently attend a magnet program in Baton Rouge. That's about one out of five students in the school system.
The eight new magnet programs are at the following schools: Belaire High, Istrouma Middle, Istrouma High, Park Forest Elementary, Park Forest Middle, Villa del Rey Elementary, Woodlawn High and Woodlawn Middle.
The two Woodlawn schools launched their programs in August. They currently educate about 200 children in all, the bulk of them at the middle school.
The programs at Belaire, the two Park Forest schools and Villa del Rey are launching soon, with financed secured through a $14.9 million, five-year federal grant that the school system won in September.
Porter said the elementary schools may start their magnet program this fall if they can hire teachers quickly enough, but all four schools will be up and running with their programs by the time the second semester begins in January.
The magnet programs at Istrouma High and Middle schools are a mix of old and new.
The middle school magnet program was until May a part of Brookstown Middle but is being moved to the campus of Istrouma High school at 3730 Winbourne Avenue, where Istrouma middle school will be located.
Istrouma Middle will be a full magnet school while Istrouma High will offer a magnet program styled after the middle school magnet. It was approved by the School Board on Oct. 19 and won’t open until next August.
The board also made another change Oct. 19, creating a “priority zone” for Mayfair Lab, a four-year-old magnet school at 9880 Hyacinth Ave.
The zone is bounded by Interstate 10 on the north, Nicholson Drive on the south, Siegen Lane on the east, and Kenilworth Parkway on the west. Students living in the zone will be given preference for admissions to the popular school, which has an A letter grade from the state.