School choice season begins with 1 seat for almost every 2 applicants

Oct 14, 2017
Dancers at Bak Middle School of the Arts rehearse. Bak’s arts program is one of the most prestigious in the county. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

The first grading period in Palm Beach County schools has just come to a close and already it’s time for students to consider where they want to attend next year. If those plans include moving to a choice program at one of 117 schools, the application season is about to begin and the competition remains steep.

The number of seats available has grown by a couple of thousand in the past two years with 12,000 open. But the applicant pool is growing too — about 22,000 students are expected to compete for those seats.

The new offerings include a so-called STEAM program at a school that’s stretching from an elementary to a K-8 center. Hidden Oaks in suburban Boynton Beach will extend to grade seven next fall and grade eight the year after. Middle school age students don’t have to live in the school’s elementary boundaries to attend its Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math magnet.

Also new for middle schoolers: a pre-engineering program at Polo Park and an information technology program at Emerald Cove, both in Wellington, and University of Cambridge’s middle school prep for the AICE program at Lantana Middle.

West Technical Education Center in Belle Glade has added a construction and “mechatronics” program. Mechatronics is the lingo for electronics and mechanical engineering.

The district’s schools offer 310 choice programs.

Among the most prestigious? The programs at Bak Middle School of the Arts, Dreyfoos High School of the Arts and Suncoast Community High, home of an International Baccalaureate. But popular programs abound even at the elementary level, including Spanish dual language, Montessori and environmental science.

Applications will be available beginning Nov. 1. But students and parents can get a better look at what’s available next week at the Annual Showcase of Schools at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

Deadline to apply to an arts program that requires an audition is Dec. 1. For all other choice programs, applications are due Jan. 26. Seats are assigned to applicants, including those who pass the auditions, in the spring.