Education

Over 600 apply for Rock Hill school choice programs

Nicolas Hernandez, 8, left, and Jordan Lightner, 7, listen to a lesson in the second-grade Spanish immersion class at Ebinport Elementary School in this file photo.
Nicolas Hernandez, 8, left, and Jordan Lightner, 7, listen to a lesson in the second-grade Spanish immersion class at Ebinport Elementary School in this file photo. tkimball@heraldonline.com

More than 600 students applied to Rock Hill school choice programs by Friday’s deadline – about twice as many as have applied in the past – school leaders said Monday.

Acceptance notices are expected to be issued later this month, under a timeline established by the Rock Hill school district.

“As this point, we are looking at numbers, and we also have to look at available seats,” said Rich Melzer, executive director of choice schools. “We will set up the lottery for those schools where we have more applications than we do spaces.”

Choice schools are those that students choose to attend regardless of attendance zone because of a specific method of instruction or academic focus.

Rock Hill’s choice programs typically have attracted 300 to 320 applicants in previous years, associate superintendent Luanne Kokolis said. More than half of this year’s applicants will be in kindergarten in the fall.

Kokolis and Melzer will meet with principals this week to nail down how many seats are available in choice programs at each grave level.

All the choice schools received a bump in applicants over previous years, Melzer said, but the highest number was in the Spanish language immersion program.

Other Rock Hill school choice programs include French language immersion, Montessori (kindergarten to second grade); school of inquiry (third to fifth grade); arts integration; science, technology, arts, engineering and math (STEAM); gifted and talented; and international baccalaureate.

The district also received enough applications for a school of inquiry program, Melzer said, to be based at Ebenezer Avenue Elementary in the fall, for at least three classes of students and possibly four.

If an electronic lottery drawing is necessary due to more demand than available seats, he said, families who are accepted to the choice program will be notified and others will be placed on a waiting list.

In a quest to make choice programs available to more students, Superintendent Kelly Pew has pledged to provide transportation to students who attend a choice program outside their zoned school. School bus transportation for choice students were eliminated a few years ago during recession-era budget cuts.

The school district also held two school choice enrollment fairs in March to make students and parents aware of options and to encourage them to apply.

Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077

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