Wake County School choices, Magnet and Charter 2016

12 Dec

It is that time of year when you start looking at school choices for your children.  Most of you will select the base school and not look back.  What are the benefits to that?  For one, convenience.  It is close to home.  Two, most of the other kids are doing the same.  If your child has already been a base school student, you will hear, “I want to stay with my friends.”  Valid?  Maybe.  It depends on the base school.  In Wake county if Green Hope or Panther Creek were my base schools, I might be more inclined to go with the base.  Green Hope, especially, has a good reputation.  Other schools have less to offer and if you are really invested in your child’s academic experience, you may want to consider other alternatives.

Overall, any base elementary will give you a good start.  I don’t have a magnet experience from elementary school but the base schools were good, although a bit slow for a gifted child.  For a highly motivated gifted child, you might try Sterling Montessori or Poe Montessori.  They can work at their own pace.  Poe is magnet and Sterling is charter.

Your next big window for a spot comes in sixth grade but don’t forget to consider stealing a spot in fifth grade.  With many families not willing to move their kid during their final year of elementary school, it may be a time to grab a spot when competition is low.

Middle school is a great time to get into magnets.  Your child (in their head, they will be fine in any case) will survive making new friends easier from fifth to sixth than from eighth to ninth.  In base middle schools, you typically get to choose from 4 electives, things like band, PE, the wheel (learn about career choices), and keyboarding.  It isn’t really a choice, since you have to take keyboarding.  In seventh and eighth grade you can add a language as a choice but you see how limited your electives are.

In magnet schools, you choose,from 60 electives and the choices are wide and interesting, pet vet, math patterns, mythology, sculpture, piano, volleyball, dance, robotics, fantasy football, etc. There are still classes in keyboarding (required), health (required), and the option to take three (instead of 2) years of a foreign language.  Additionally, there may be a theme, like field trips, Academically Gifted, Leadership, Languages, etc.

There are also many charter schools that go from K to 8 and they usually have a theme, like Sterling Montessori or Exploris Elementary and Middle, etc. ; visit these schools and see if they fit your child.  We have had kids at both.  We were very happy at Sterling and had a good first year at Exploris (6th grade) but it changed too much with the new director for a good fit for us but could be a good fit for others.  Be sure to fully investigate though do two reasons, one is that Exploris does not use a traditional approach to teaching, make sure your child learns that way, it is not direct and that was hard for my ADHD son, second, sometimes charter schools are  over run with a special needs population that they are not equipped to handle.  Sterling actually excelled in that area where Explois failed.  Just things to keep in mind.

Even when if your child is only in fourth grade or sixth grade, you need to be thinking about the path that includes high school.  High school is the biggest and most important decision.  If your child is considering a traditional path that includes college, where they go to high school is very important.  Choosing a place that they can be academically successful, meet strong academic goals and also have a great social experience should be the goal.  One is not good without the other.

There are a few charter schools that are good, Raleigh Charter HS, Research Triangle HS, Longleaf School of the Arts are some examples.  There is Triangle Math and Science Academy (not to be confused with the state funded School of Science and Math in Durham) that is highly focused on academics but from what I know, lacks the social component needed so I don’t recommend it.  Raleigh Charter is known for being rigorous and because of that seems to have a reduced social atmosphere (I had a child go there).  Research Triangle is supposed to be a STEM school but offers almost no STEM electives.  This is also a problem with most charters, the choices in electives is very small.

As for magnet high schools, you will find many more electives.  Base schools offer some but in many cases they are over crowded and hard to get into the popular ones so kids take your basic ones like foods, teen life, weight training, and other random classes they get put in because it is all that is available.  In the magnets, you will find a much wider variety, more sections, and more interesting classes.  Enloe is known as the strongest academic magnet.  They offer almost every AP class and from what I hear do a good job with those classes.  They have a four year computer programming sequence and a biomedical program in addition to many classes in the arts.

In the past, I had written positive reviews of Southeast Raleigh high school as a magnet choice.  They have Engineering, Biomedical, Cybersecurity, and a good arts program.  The teachers my son had the first two  years were great but we lost almost all his teachers this year (administration issues I hear).  I have not been as happy this year academically.  He s now taking many AP classes with teachers who are not qualified to be teaching AP.  The good news is he gets no homework so I am able to use that time and supplement what he should be learning if it is a subject we can teach (Calculus and Physics) but he was on his own in AP Chemistry so although he got a B in the class, he only scored a 2 on the AP exam (which was probably one of the high grades).  Instead of taking Calculus 2 with his teacher, however, they are letting him take it at Wake Tech next semester.  He enjoys the flexibility, the students are very nice, and he has been very involved in theater and for that aspect, I can still give it a high rating but academically right now, it is not something I would recommend to someone unless they want to supplement their child’s education.  To put it in perspective, though, I would still choose it over my bases school (Apex).

There are many benefits to looking outside of your bases school.  The window to look is now, magnet registration opens in January and most charter school lotteries are in February or March.

Good Luck.

Lynne Gregorio, Ph.D,


oldest went to: Sterling Montessori (K-6), base (just 7th grade), Raleigh Charter (9-10),

homeschool (8th and 11th), base (2 classes senior year), Dual enrollment WTCC, graduated UNCC, degree computer science

next went to : Sterling Montessori (pre K -8 th), base (9-12)

next went to: base, Exploris, homeschool (3rd and 8th), Southeast Raleigh Magnet, Dual Enrolled WTCC

youngest: went to: base, Sterling Montessori, base, Moore Square Middle, considering Enloe for high,school


Leave a Reply