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School Choice Frequently Asked Questions

Parents: Please note that this document will be updated as questions are continuously received and deemed useful to this process. Content within this FAQ is subject to change. 

  • What is School Choice?
    Each school-aged child in Charleston County is assigned to a neighborhood school based on grade level and home address. In addition, CCSD offers several other dynamic choices, including specialized programs, magnets, and charter schools.

  • Who can apply?
    All students residing in Charleston County are eligible to apply. Out of county residents are required to pay tuition. Residency verification is due by August 1, 2017.

  • What is a Neighborhood School?
    This is a school where students are assigned to attend because they live in the school’s attendance area or attendance zone. A student’s neighborhood school is also referred to as their “home school.” (Use our GIS Lookup Tool to check your attendance zone.)

  • What is a Countywide Admissions Magnet?
    This is a school that has a specific focus. All students in Charleston County are eligible to apply, however there are specific criteria that must be met for admission. All of the students at a countywide admissions magnet school are magnet students.

    There are three countywide admissions magnet schools: Academic Magnet High School, Charleston School of the Arts, and Buist Academy.

  • What is a Countywide Magnet?
    This is a school that has a specific focus or theme. All students in Charleston County are eligible to apply. There are four countywide magnet schools: Burke Advanced Studies Academy, Burke Low Country Tech Academy, Charleston Progressive Academy, Garrett Academy for Technology, and Military Magnet Academy.

  • What is a Constituent Magnet?
    This is a school with a theme or focus which has a designated attendance zone. Ashley River Creative Arts is the only constituent magnet school at this time and it serves students in District 10 (West Ashley area).

  • What is a Partial Magnet?
    A partial magnet is a school that has a theme or focus and a defined constituent attendance zone. In addition, a specific number of seats are allocated to students who live outside the attendance zone but who still reside in Charleston County.

  • What is a Montessori School?
    A Montessori school practices a very specific educational model. The Montessori model was developed in Italy in the early 1900’s. It is a child-centered educational approach in which students work with specially designed materials, and it facilitates the student organizing his/her thinking and applying knowledge to real-world experiences. Visit our Montessori page to learn more about the benefits of the Montessori model.

  • What are charter schools?
    A charter is a public school that operates with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Charters typically have a focus or theme. All students residing in Charleston County are eligible to apply. All CCSD charter schools manage their own application processes, with the exception of Orange Grove Charter (who has adopted our timeline and online application process.)

  • How do I apply for a charter school?
    Please visit the website of the charter school in which you are interested to learn more about their individual application processes.

  • Which schools in Charleston County are choice schools?
    Visit our Choice page for a list of CCSD’s choice schools.

  • How do I know if a choice school is a good fit for my student?
    It is important that parents explore the options offered by their neighborhood schools as a first step, before submitting an application to one or more choice schools. Likewise, it is critical that parents understand the focus or theme of the choice school and how it is implemented in the school. Parents must consider information such as the limitations of transportation provided to choice schools and the grade levels served by choice schools.

  • How do I apply to a choice school for my student?
    The online application is easy to complete and can be accessed from the CCSD website. Call the CCSD School Choice Office (843 937-6406) for assistance.

    All applications submitted during the designated application window will receive equal consideration regardless of the date they are submitted.

  • How do I find my student's CCSD ID number?
    If you have a student already attending a CCSD school, you can access your student's ID number by signing into Parent Portal. This also provides you access to your student's grades, attendance and discipline. You will be asked for the student Id number at the beginning of the application process.

  • What if I do not have access to a computer or the internet, and cannot come to the 75 Calhoun Help Center or the Choice Fair? Is there a paper application?
    CCSD will work with you to insure that you are able to submit an application for each choice school for which you wish your student to be considered. You or someone you know may request a paper application by contacting the Guidance Counselor at your home school or by visiting us at the District Office at 75 Calhoun Street in downtown Charleston.

    We encourage our families to use the online application process through our schools or community library if computer access is not available at home. The paper application will require a parent to provide the same information as required on the online application. CCSD staff will enter this information (in the online application system) so that the student can be a part of the applicant pool and lottery process. Unfortunately, incomplete or partial applications will not be able to be processed until all information is received. It is important to understand that duplicate applications for the same school will be noted by the system manager and only one per student / per school will be entered into the lottery.

    Paper applications must be submitted to CCSD via one of the following methods:

    • Return a completed paper application to the Guidance Counselor at the CCSD school the student currently attends. Guidance Counselors have been asked to assist families by either entering the information into (our online application system), assisting with computer access, or contacting the Help Center at the District Office for assistance.

Parents, it is your responsibility to contact us via email or phone to verify that your paper application has been received.

  • How does the lottery work?
    Applications completed and submitted are first reviewed by school administrators and determined if eligible for lottery.

    There are different lottery categories depending on the category of choice school. Lotteries can be:

    • Fully randomized as in Countywide schools

    • Used for placement based on audition or rubric results

    • Randomized based on priorities as in Partial Magnet or Montessori schools

    • Randomized based on priorities as in Charter Schools

The results of a lottery run is an Accepted List and a Waiting List per grade for the particular choice school and based on the number of seats available per grade.

There are no public lotteries. All lotteries are ran at the central office level using the SmartChoice system and results are disbursed to parents through that system by way of email and the parent dashboard.

  • What is the process for accepting or declining a seat at a choice school?Notifications of acceptance will be sent to the email address used when submitting the application. You are only able to accept one (1) seat offer. You cannot accept seat offers from multiple schools. In accepting a seat you are confirming your decision regarding school choice for the 2016-2017 school year and relinquishing all other seat offers from magnet schools included in your application. Your position on the waiting list of any other schools that you applied for will be released upon accepting a seat.

  • What about waiting lists?
    If your student was NOT offered a seat but received a number in the lottery that is 150 or less, and is on a waiting list at a school to which an application was submitted, your student will remain on the waiting list provided you have not accepted a seat at another CCSD magnet school. The online application system’s Dashboard allows families to track their progress on waiting lists.

    Waiting lists for all magnet schools will be capped at 150 students each and will not roll over from year to year. New applications must be submitted each year.

  • What is the application period for the 2017-2018 school year?
    Please refer to the Important Dates section on our Choice page for the complete schedule of important dates.

Remember that all applications will be given the same consideration regardless of when they are submitted during the application period, however applications cannot be submitted once the window closes as it will be published in the Important Dates section mentioned above.

Parents are allowed to choose up to five (5) school choice options in the application.

  • Will there be an opportunity to visit with the Principals of CCSD choice schools? Is CCSD holding a Choice Fair this year?
    Yes, on Saturday, January 21, 2016, the CCSD Choice Fair will be held at West Ashley High School. All choice schools will be present to share information about their schools and provide parents an opportunity to meet the principal and other staff members. Computer labs will be open at West Ashley High School during the Choice Fair so that parents can complete the online application on site. Bilingual assistance will be available at the Choice Fair.

  • Do choice schools offer school tours?
    Yes. Many are currently offering tours and open house opportunities. Please visit the websites of the schools that interest you to access information, dates and times, and to learn how to schedule tours.

  • If my student does not get into a choice school, what must I do to reapply?
    Once an account is established within the online application system, an application can be completed during the next open application period and submitted for consideration.

    Note that only some schools may have seats available during an additional application period.

  • Is transportation provided to choice schools?
    CCSD does not provide the same door-to-door transportation comparable to transportation to “home” schools. Centralized transportation may be provided depending on the location and the school. Please note:

    • CCSD does not transport students younger than 4yrs old.

    • Centralized locations are used for magnet/choice school bus stops and could be as far as five miles from your home in commercial or unsupervised areas.

    • These are parent assisted bus stops and are not intended to be stops to which most students can walk or be left unattended.

    • IEP teams may determine transportation needs for students who may require additional provisions.

    • For most efficient routing, riders may be pooled with a wide range of age groups on the same bus.

These things should be considered when submitting an application for a magnet school. Detailed information regarding specific bus routes will not be available until August, when routes are developed and finalized for the school year.

Also please note, charter schools handle their own transportation and parents should contact those schools directly with questions related to transportation.

  • Do choice schools have waiting lists?
    There are waiting lists at most CCSD choice schools. All waiting lists are capped at 150 students.

  • Is there any consideration for siblings who already attend a choice school?Countywide admissions criteria magnets and countywide magnet schools do not have sibling priorities. (However, Buist Academy does maintain a sibling waiting list that does not roll over from year to year and is capped at 150 students like other magnet schools.)

  • If I am an active member of the military, can I apply to choice schools?
    Yes, you may apply during the designated application window. If you arrive in Charleston and/or receive orders for Charleston after the application window closes you may still apply by using the Military Family Application posted on the CCSD website. After the application window has closed, your application will be subject to choice school seat availability. All admissions criteria are applicable for choice schools that have specific admissions criteria.

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