Thousands of students apply to OCPS magnet programs every year

This year, nearly 4,000 students applied to join a magnet program

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  • | 3:52 p.m. March 16, 2017
  • Southwest Orange
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With his sights set on a musical career, Josiah Hall is anxiously waiting to hear back from the Visual and Performing Arts Magnet at Dr. Phillips High School.

It’s been weeks since his audition, but he won’t hear back until mid-March they told him.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” Hall said about the wait.

Hall, who is an eighth-grader at Lockhart Middle School, is one of nearly 4,000 students throughout the Orange County Public School district who applied to join a magnet program for the 2017-18 school year. 

The application process began in November with a deadline set for Feb. 15. But with so many applicants - 3,906 to be exact - the district reported that not all students will be placed in a magnet program.

These programs, which range widely in subjects, provide students with an opportunity to study a specific field of study. The district currently has programs at six elementary schools,10 middle schools and 22 high schools. 

But the high school programs are by far the most popular. This year, 2,100 of the applications were for high school programs while 1,224 were for middle school programs.

Although the district does not rank their programs, some receive far more applications than others, including the Visual and Performing Arts Magnet and the Center for International Studies Magnet at Dr. Phillips High.

The quality of Dr. Phillips High’s magnet programs is so high that they were both recently recognized by the Magnet Schools of America. The VPA Magnet was named a Merit School of Distinction while the CIS Magnet was named as a National Magnet School of Excellence.

“The VPA Magnet Program offers students with an interest in the performing arts a place where they can excel in their chosen field of expertise,” said Keith Galasso, director of the VPA Magnet at Dr. Phillips High. “Students become an integral part of a highly motivated and successful program which helps build self-esteem and confidence.”

For students such as Hall, getting into a magnet program could be life-changing. He’s been playing the bass clarinet since sixth grade, thanks to his mom.

“My mom played bass clarinet in high school, and she said it was a fun instrument,” Hall said.

Hall has big dreams of attending the Eastman School of Music for college and one day becoming either a music educator or professional bass clarinet player. But the first step of that dream is to gain more musical knowledge.

“It’ll give me musical background that I might need for college, like learning musical theory, how to play the piano, how to read music in a new clef,” Hall said about the VPA Magnet at Dr. Phillips High.

Students are chosen for programs based on a lottery system. An initial lottery was held on Feb. 24 with a second lottery scheduled for later in April. For those who do not get selected in the lottery, they will be placed on a waiting list. But the chances of getting chosen off the waiting list before the school year begins are slim. And once the school year begins, the waiting list is erased.

In the case of the VPA Magnet at Dr. Phillips High, students are also required to audition.

Last year, Amaya Zhané auditioned to join the VPA Magnet at Dr. Phillips High. After weeks of agonizing waiting, she got the news. She had been accepted into the program.

“I was extremely happy to continue my training as an actress and really dive deep into my work,” said Zhané, who is now a junior. “It’s helped me with my core classes because I'm able to have a creative outlet and a healthy balance. It’s also helped me with connections in the community theater world and helped me learn so much more about the technical theater side of the magnet.”

For Hall, the prospect of not getting accepted into the Dr. Phillips High VPA Magnet is one he refuses to even think about. 

To make his audition for the VPA Magnet stand out from the rest, he chose to perform his superior-winning solo - a song that is typically performed by students two years older than himself.

But Hall, along with hundreds of other students, still waits for that email of good news from the district.

“They’re the only magnet program that’s in performing arts,” he said about the VPA Magnet. “I know that I can get a good experience from there.”


Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected]


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