MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools says every day thousands of students are signing up for its school choice lottery.
The lottery is an opportunity for students all around the county to be enrolled in different magnet programs. CMS magnet schools programs are in elementary to high school and include programs from carpentry to software development.
Saturday morning, CMS hosted its annual school choice magnet fair where hundreds of families got the chance to explore dozens of schools and academic programs the district has to offer.
“We are really interested in education, particularly in S.T.E.A.M.," said Theresa Sutton, here with her husband and two children, as they checked out several booths.
"My son has been going to a magnet school -- same as his brother since elementary and now he is looking for a different challenge," said Paula Gorini-Taylor.
Dr. Regina Boyd is the principal at University Park Creative Arts Elementary school where students are exposed to dance, drama, and orchestra. Her booth has all of the information families need about their programs.
"The magnet schools give our scholars the opportunity to have interests in different areas that will have them access the other part of their brain… or will spark career interests in them," Boyd said.
Jasmine Amaker is hoping to get into a school that pushes her creatively.
"To be honest I'm really interested in art," said Amaker. "I get to play around with the drawings, make characters, and make dresses."
Another school offering magnet programs is Harding University High School.
"It really gives students opportunities to think about what they would be interested in outside of high school," Glenn Starnes, Harding University High School's principal, said.
In the classroom there are programs being worked on that most students wouldn’t be introduced to until college.
Harding offers a computer science program that includes focuses on sports and event marketing, digital marketing, software development, and financial planning.
This year, by student demand, the high school is piloting a new magnet program where students can study coursework that involves law, forensic pathology, or social justice.
"Students will have an internship where they are actually in the field with a lawyer in the field, with the paralegal, or in the field at the medical examiner's office or in the field working with the county commissioner or a member of a city council or grassroots organization," Starnes said.
There are also other new magnet programs like the aviation program at E.E. Waddell High School.
Current CMS families should already have their student's ID number and a pin to enter into the lottery. After exploring all choices families can choose up to three schools that best match their child’s interests and talents.
The chance to sign up for the lottery opened on Jan. 16 and closes on Feb. 13 at 10 p.m.
CMS says lottery results will be mailed to all families who participated in the lottery a few weeks after the lottery closes. Families who do not get their first choice will automatically be placed on a waiting list for the first-choice school only.
"We're looking to create and innovate, meeting the demands of a modern job force," CMS school board member Jennifer De La Jara said. "So CMS is leading the way."
She encouraged families to visit the CMS School Choice Magnet Fair on Saturday, Feb. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Innovation Park.
Families can get help with completing their lottery application, there will be interpreters at the fair, food and activities.
CMS has plenty of competition to offer attractive programs. Although most students in North Carolina go to traditional public schools, each year thousands are switching to charter schools and homeschooling.
Magnet programs keep traditional public schools competitive.
"I think in public schools, that gives us an opportunity just to give kids lots of different options that may not be made available to them because they can't afford to go to a private school [or] they're not interested in the charter school," Starnes said.
Even if you have already submitted your application, changes can be made through the close of the lottery application window on Feb. 13 at 10 p.m.
If you're unable to make the lottery fair you can schedule a virtual meeting with a CMS staff member.
Contact Shamarria Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.