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L.A. schools magnet program has earlier deadlines

October 6, 2012 |  7:00 am

The Los Angeles school district’s popular magnet program has a new deadline for applications this year -- Nov. 16 -- because of the early start of the school year.

“Everything got moved up a month,” said Felipe Echávarri, a coordinator for Student Integration Services. “We want parents to be aware.”

Officials said families will receive automated phone reminders and an alert by postcard, but magnet-program brochures and applications are no longer mailed out. Those mailings ended last year, when the district switched to an online system.

Families without computer access can obtain paper applications, starting Monday, at schools, L.A. city public libraries and district headquarters. The application is available in Armenian, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Farsi, Tagalog and Vietnamese as well as English.

The school system has 172 magnet programs that enroll just over 59,000 students. More than 25,000 students failed to get into their chosen program and landed on a waiting list last year.

Magnets were first created as a voluntary integration program. The goal was to draw students from various parts of the district to schools they might not otherwise attend. The magnets have racial quotas: They're supposed to enroll a certain percentage of white students. Minority students make up more than 90% of the district enrollment overall.

The district provides free busing, but budget cuts in recent years have reduced the number of pickup and drop-off locations and lengthened travel time for many students.

Seven new magnets are expected to open next fall, six of which are scheduled for final approval at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Education.

King Middle School in Los Feliz, which has  a magnet for academically gifted students on its campus, will become a full magnet along with Irving Middle School in Glassell Park. Sun Valley Middle School in the east San Fernando Valley will divide into three magnets.

New magnets also are expected to open at Venice High on the Westside, Verdugo Hills High in Tujunga and at the just-opened South Region High School No. 12 in South Los Angeles.
The magnet application is relatively simple. But the point system for determining who gets in is considerably more complicated. A student gets points for landing on a waiting list, for living near an overcrowded school or one with few or no white students and for having a sibling at the desired magnet, among other considerations.

For years, L.A. Unified lacked a one-stop hub with information about all schooling options, including independently operated charter schools. The current Web page has improved features for researching choices.

But there was one major hitch last week: Last year’s deadline was still posted prominently, which could result in unknowing parents turning in applications a month late. The correct deadline, in smaller print, appeared on another part of the same Web page.

-- Howard Blume