Rock Hill families interested in the school district's choice and magnet programs can apply to enroll their children starting Saturday.
The application deadline is Feb. 29, but Rock Hill schools spokeswoman Elaine Baker said students can sign up after that as long as campuses have room for the 2012-2013 academic year.
"We hope to tell most parents by the end of March whether their kids are accepted," Baker said.
At schools where more students apply than can be accepted, a lottery will determine who gets in.
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Choice often pops up in debates over private school vouchers, but in recent years it's become a buzzword among public schools, particularly as traditional campuses face competition for students from charter and virtual schools.
Among York County's four districts, Clover, Fort Mill and York schools have been slow to add options. But Rock Hill schools Superintendent Lynn Moody has embraced the idea and is positioning the district to pick up the pace.
By August, the district will have gone in five years from just one school of choice to nine.
The campuses are open to any Rock Hill student, no matter where he or she lives.
Parents can choose from among three magnet schools and six schools of choice.
The difference is magnet schools provide transportation for students living outside the attendance zone. Choice schools don't.
The schools are planning a series of open houses so families can visit and get information.
The magnets include a gifted and talented program at Sunset Park Center for Accelerated Studies, as well as a science, technology, engineering and math program at Oakdale Elementary and Saluda Trail Middle.
The choice schools are:
Rosewood Elementary - Primary Years International Baccalaureate Programme
The Children's School at Sylvia Circle - Montessori program
Ebinport Elementary - Spanish focus and global studies program
Northside Elementary School of the Arts - Focusing on arts integration
Richmond Drive Elementary - Spanish learning program
Sullivan Middle School - Middle Years International Baccalaureate Programme
The district has been criticized for failing to provide transportation to most of its choice programs. Parents and school board members have raised concerns that students whose families can't drive them across town are missing out.
Moody has countered that the cost of transportation limits where it can be provided. It's better to have the options without transportation rather than not offer them at all, she has said.
Rock Hill schools will begin accepting applications for the district's nine schools of choice Saturday.
Families can apply online, at the district office or at the schools.
Applications will be available on the district's website under "Headlines" and on any of the choice school websites under the "School Choice" tab.
Each of the schools will hold an open house from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on these dates:
Richmond Drive Elementary, Spanish learning program, 1162 Richmond Drive; Monday and Feb. 2
Sullivan Middle School, Middle Years International Baccalaureate Programme, 1825 Eden Terrace; Monday and Feb. 13
Ebinport Elementary, Spanish focus and global studies program, 2142 India Hook Road; Tuesday and Feb. 21
Rosewood Elementary, Primary Years International Baccalaureate Programme, 2240 Rosewood Drive; Jan. 26 and Feb. 16
The Children's School at Sylvia Circle, Montessori program, 929 Sylvia Circle, Jan. 31 and Feb. 27
Northside Elementary School of the Arts, arts integration, 840 Annafrel St.; Feb. 7
Saluda Trail Middle, STEM Program, 2300 Saluda Road, Jan. 31 and Feb. 23
Oakdale Elementary, STEM Program, 1129 Oakdale Road, Feb. 6 and 28
Sunset Park Center for Accelerated Studies , 1036 Ogden Road, Feb. 9