Monday marks the opening of a two-week period for families to apply to Wake County’s 40 magnet schools.
The application period comes as parents at Broughton High School, near downtown Raleigh, say their crowded school shouldn’t be used to ease over-enrollment at Enloe High School, also a popular Raleigh magnet school.
The school board faces conflicting opinions about how many students living near one of the popular magnets should be sent to a more-distant school to deal with neighborhood growth and keep a stable magnet population. The board responded last week by postponing until February a decision on where to send students who would be affected by a cap on Enloe’s attendance area, mostly east of downtown.
School board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said the system should strike a balance to ensure that both Enloe and Broughton will have enough seats for magnet students. Both inside-the-Beltline schools have been popular across the county but also serve neighborhoods near the schools.
“I’ve been supportive of the magnet program at Enloe,” Kushner said in an interview. “I’ve been supportive of the new magnet program at Broughton. They’re both important to Wake schools. It’s a countywide balance.”
Striking a balance has been one of the longtime objectives of the magnet program.
Since 1982, Wake has used the magnet program to diversify school enrollments, fill under-enrolled schools and provide educational opportunities. Magnet schools offer programs typically not found at regular schools.
For this school year, Wake placed 53 percent of the 5,558 applicants into magnet schools.
In 2008, the board voted to take magnet status away from Broughton and Daniels Middle School, saying both schools near Raleigh’s Cameron Village would still be healthy as nonmagnet schools.
But since that decision, administrators said, Broughton and Daniels have experienced declining test scores and graduation rates, rising percentages of low-income students and increasing competition from magnet schools, private schools and charter schools.
Last fall, administrators recommended giving magnet status to the Spanish immersion programs at Hodge Road and Jeffreys Grove elementary schools and the Mandarin Chinese immersion program at Stough Elementary School. That would allow families around the county to apply. In immersion programs, half or all the required courses such as math and social studies are taught in a foreign language.
Administrators also recommended restoring magnet status to Daniels and Broughton to form a new K-12 immersion/global studies magnet pathway so the Jeffreys Grove and Stough students could continue their studies. Broughton and Daniels will also offer new global studies and culture courses.
“We want the immersion students to have a clear path, but we want the community to know about these new immersion programs,” said Tamani Anderson Powell, director of marketing and communications for the magnet program. “They’re amazing.”
Since the board’s vote in October to restore magnet status, interest has been high in Broughton. More than 600 people representing families who live in the school’s attendance area and prospective magnet applicants attended an open house in November, according to Broughton Principal Stephen Mares.
Carolina Gasia of Zebulon and her 13-year-old son, Carter, were among more than 100 people who toured Broughton on Jan. 16. Carter said he wants to go to Broughton to be with classmates at Ligon Middle School who intend to go to the new magnet school.
“He was extremely excited it became a magnet school,” Carolina Gasia said. “He’s always wanted to come here. That wouldn’t have been possible before this year.”
To help safeguard the new magnet program, Broughton parents have been emailing school board members about why they shouldn’t take the overflow from Enloe’s nonmagnet population.
“We have had a tremendous effort on the part of both parents and staff to build the curriculum and to recruit students, and we’re just very concerned that having those students take the seats at Broughton will limit our ability to fill the magnet seats,” Joy Ruhmann, Broughton’s PTSA president, told the school board at last week’s meeting.
Board members say they still intend to cap Enloe but are looking for alternatives to sending the students to Broughton.
But school board member Jim Martin also lectured the Broughton parents, telling them to watch their language. “When magnet status is given, it both comes with privileges and responsibilities,” he said.
“We need to be really careful as an entire system about the ‘those students’ language,” he said at the meeting. “There are discipline issues at all kinds of schools and just because we have a lower-income population doesn’t mean that there’s more discipline issues.”