So, y’all, we won the lottery.
No, not the millions of dollars kind. (Sadly.) But a few years ago, when my oldest child was in preschool, we won the lottery with the number 23. It was good enough to secure us a spot at one of the HCDE (Hamilton County Department of Education) magnet schools. We were thrilled, and we have been so happy with the school our children attend. The building itself might be crumbling, but the community we’ve found there has been phenomenal.
(For my kids’ protection, I’m going to refrain from mentioning which school they go to, so I hope you’ll understand.)
(Also, I’d like to bypass all the arguments for and against charter schools here. I can definitely see both sides. I’m just trying to help along those of you who might be going through this process.)
Warning: You Have to Start Sooner Than You Think!
Will your child be going to kindergarten next year? (Or could they, even if you think you might redshirt? If he or she will be five-years-old on or before August 15, 2019, this is you.) You might have to start the application process NOW! Some schools also start in sixth or ninth grade.
I am just going to stick to discussing magnet schools in this post. Because of the School Choice initiative, Hamilton County now has a TON of options for students, especially in 6th grade and above, including:
- Open Enrollment Schools: Dalewood Middle (6-8), Hamilton County Virtual School (K-12), Howard Connect Academy (6-8), Loftis Middle School (6-8), Lookout Mountain School (K-5), Lookout Valley Middle (6-8), Ooltewah Middle (6-8), Red Bank Middle (6-8), Rivermont Elementary (K-5), Soddy Daisy Middle (6-8), and Woodmore Elementary (K-5) all offer open enrollment to students outside of the school zones. More information on the HCDE site.
- Early College/Career Schools: Collegiate High at Chattanooga State, Polytech Academy, Mechatronics Akademie at Volkswagen, Gestamp Work-Based Learning Program, and Sequoyah High School offer paid and unpaid programs starting in high school. More information on the HCDE site.
- Future Ready Institutes: According to the HCDE site, “Future Ready Institutes are offered in 13 zone high schools, providing students with small learning cohorts with career, theme-based teaching, and learning beginning in 9th grade.” These are application-based, and applications open in November and close in January.
Hamilton County Magnet Schools
The Hamilton County magnet schools are:
- Barger Academy [Kindergarten – 5th Grade]
- Battle Academy [Kindergarten – 5th Grade]
- Brown Academy [Kindergarten – 5th Grade]
- Center for Creative Arts (CCA) [6th – 12th Grade]
- Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences (CSAS) (lower school/upper school) [Kindergarten – 12th Grade]
- Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA) [Kindergarten – 10th Grade, going to 12th by 2024-25]
- Normal Park Museum Magnet [Kindergarten – 8th Grade]
- STEM School [9th – 12th Grade]
There are four categories of schools to which you can apply:
Center for Creative Arts (CCA)
CCA is for grades 6-12 and students major in different aspects of the arts (theater, music, technical, vocal, visual, etc.). Applications are accepted on the HCDE website from November 15 to January 31 of the school year prior to admittance. Once the application is received, you are mailed information about their audition process, which takes place in February. CCA is not a lottery system; it is entirely based on auditions. Out-of-county students can apply, but they are charged tuition if they attend the school.
This group of schools first admits students who live in the zone for the school, siblings of current students (with an application), and then students through a lottery. These schools are: Barger Academy of Fine Arts; Battle Academy; Brown International Academy; Normal Park Museum Magnet. A lottery is performed each year for each grade level. Brown Academy and Battle Academy also give priority to students of parents who work full-time in downtown Chattanooga.
Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences (CSAS) and Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA) are sister schools of the Paideia philosophy of learning. CSAS is K-12 and in 2022-23 CSLA will be K-10 with intention of adding up to grade 12 as they move to their new building. These schools are based only on lottery (after sibling admission). They do keep a wait list, and you can apply to be added to the wait list before any school year. After the lottery posting, the Paideia schools will require a few meetings before entrance.
STEM School (grades 9-12)
A certain number of spots is allocated from each high school in the county for students to be admitted to STEM School Chattanooga. Students apply during their eighth grade year. Information about enrolling students for higher grades can be obtained by contacting the STEM School Chattanooga office. More details can be found here.
What Does It Mean for Your Child to Attend a Magnet School?
The most important thing to keep in mind if your child attends a magnet school is that each year, parents are required to do 18 hours of volunteering for the school. This 18 hours of required volunteering time is a minimum per family; parents, step-parents, and grandparents can fulfill the requirement. (If you have children at more than one magnet school, the requirement is still only 18 hours but must be split between the schools.)
There also may be requirements about conferences, attendance, and behavior. If these and the volunteer hour requirements fail to be met, you can lose your spot at the magnet school.
Brown Academy, Battle Academy, and Normal Park Museum Magnet only have buses for students in their zone, so if you attend those schools and are not in the zone, you will have to provide your own transportation. Other schools have localized stops in different areas, but will not come to your neighborhood, generally.
Siblings of current students will be given priority admission, but you will have to fill out the admission paperwork for each student.
Important Dates for 2022-23
- The application for all choice schools will open on November 15, 2021, and close on January 31, 2022. Apply on the HCDE website.
- The lottery will be February 9, 2022.
- You will find out about school acceptance by February 16, 2022.
- You have until February 23, 2022, to accept or decline your spot.