Magnet By Choice


It was February 2011. I had done everything right–toured the school, received the principal’s signature on my applications, and submitted the applications on time. I put all my eggs in one basket and selected only one school on my applications, and I even hand-delivered my application to the Duval County School Board. And I was what? #35 and #263 on the waiting list.

Then came August 2011, when my twin kindergartners started school at our wonderful neighborhood school. Kindergarten was so much fun, and my kids were thriving. February 2012 came around, and I decided not to complete magnet applications that year.

First grade came and went–another wonderful year with wonderful teachers. I began to see interest and eagerness in academics that seemed to set my kids apart from others. Encouraged by a few educators, I decided to seek out magnet again. Another year, another tour, another time-stamped application. Another letter in the mail letting me know both kids had been wait-listed.

It wasn’t until April of second grade that we “won the lottery.” My son was accepted to our first-choice magnet. I couldn’t believe it. Several tries and we were finally in. And now I didn’t want to leave our neighborhood school.

I had initially filled out the application not at all expecting to get in–I wasn’t even sure that’s what I wanted. But we had to give it a shot, knowing the door was always open to our neighborhood school. The hard part was that only one twin got in (yep, only ONE TWIN got in!) so my attention would be divided between two schools. My daughter was still #24 on the waiting list. And although we hoped all summer for a call, we never got one (the waiting list usually doesn’t move that deep!).

My son bravely started 3rd grade at a new school. That summer he had just learned that his best friends would be starting back at our neighborhood school after trying out a charter school for a year. This really made it hard for him. Every day he asked if he could just go back, go back to our sweet little neighborhood school. The transition was hard for him and equally as hard for me. I just wanted to be with “my people”– the ones I had bonded with for the first three years of elementary school. I told my son to give it a month, and he did. He finally stopped asking to go back and looked forward to each day at his new school.

We knew the pros of the magnet–top-notch academics, excellent enrichment, a large ratio of parent involvement.

And then there were the pros of the neighborhood school–great academics, amazing relationships we had built with teachers and families, the neighborhood feel.

They were both so great, and I was always so torn. But I remember the moment it totally felt right. I spoke with one of his teachers at the magnet, and she emphatically said, “Listen, Will is ‘with his people.’ He’s in the right place.” It all became clear how right she was. I knew he was right where he needed to be. As much as we loved our neighborhood school, we ended up choosing magnet.

So then came February of last year, I had to go through this whole application process again! I was still in love with my neighborhood school but I desperately wanted all my kids to be together at one school, and our magnet was pretty amazing. So I did the tour, again. Submitted another application for the fourth year. And now thankfully all the kids are at the same school, the magnet school.

My Tips for Registration

Check out the Duval Choice website.

Choose what best fits your child or family and tour the schools. If your child is struggling to keep a C – average, maybe Academically Talented is not the right track for him. If your child is not gifted artistically, maybe the visual arts magnet is not for her.

Review your application before submitting. It is important to consult the School Choice Reference Guide and fill out and send in the correct application on time and as guided (see page 47). It doesn’t matter how you submit it: online, mail, or hand-deliver.

Also, remember that some applications take priority over others; meaning some students have a better chance of getting accepted than others. Priorities for my magnet were first Neighborhood Preference, then Military, then Sibling, then Socio-Economic Status, and so on. A detailed chart of priorities can be found here.

If you get your acceptance letter, congrats! If you are wait-listed, don’t lose hope. I personally knew a #3 wait-listed for Kindergarten that never made it in, and I also knew a #12 wait-listed for Kindergarten that totally got the call on the 4th day of school that they had been accepted! And if you DO get accepted and realize it might not be the school for you, maybe you are as lucky as I was and have a wonderful neighborhood school that will gladly take you back with open arms!

Kathy is a Georgia girl who followed her surfer husband Chuck to the beaches of Jacksonville where she became mom to elementary-aged twins Sophie and Will, preschooler Lainey, and baby Henry! Stay at home mom and avid volunteer, Kathy truly believes in teaching her children to embrace the community, to depend on each other, and to serve one another. Kathy served for a decade in the Junior League of Jax and is in her third year serving on the executive board of the PTA where her children attend school. She is very active in her church, Neptune Baptist and has been involved in the MOMS Club of Jax Beach for over eight years. Kathy has learned so much in her career as a software consultant for Oracle, but is always amazed at the skills she has acquired as a mom and community volunteer. Kathy also enjoys running and completed her last marathon (#9) in 2011, but always wonders if she shouldn't just do another to have a good even 10 under her belt!


  1. One thing to add about this waiting list is to make sure you keep the information they have on file. When they start calling that list and you have changed your phone number, too bad on to the next person.


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