We Didn't Get our CMS Magnet Lottery Choice, now What?

Changes in this year's lottery system mean not all seats will be filled or finalized until after the second lottery application period.
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If you didn't get your school choice in the first round of the school choice lottery, you still have a chance.

I'm the parent of a second grader who attends a Charlotte-Mecklenburg School. It's our neighborhood school — for now. It also has a magnet program, but the entire school follows the IB magnet curriculum. Though it is our neighborhood school, other parents have told me since the start of the kindergarten to apply for the magnet program in case boundary lines shift. We happen to live in a neighborhood with a boundary line down the middle, so as CMS is in the midst of a school assignment review that may affect school boundaries, their point is particularly relevant now. 

Once again this year, I applied in the first round of the school choice lottery (aka magnet) lottery. The first round school choice lottery results are in, and we — along with almost 6,400 other CMS parents are in the wait pool. (On the other side of the coin, almost 24,000 students got the assignment requested. The numbers seem large, but remember CMS is system of more than 140,000 students).

We received our letter in the mail last week that informed us that our son was assigned to the same school next year based on our home address. From there, I have to say, the letter is vague about what happens next, but this is what I understand:

1. The wait pool. Anyone who applied in the first round of the lottery goes into a wait pool. After the second lottery assignments are designated, anyone in the wait pool goes to each school's waitlist. Knowing where you are in that wait list isn't for certain until after the second round of the lottery.

2. The second round. Many parents may be wondering "do I need to do the second round of the lottery application if I didn't get in on the first round?" The answer is no. The second magnet lottery application period, which ends March 29, is for anyone who didn't apply in the first round. If you applied in the first round, you are in the wait pool. Applying again doesn't advance your chances AND will bump you down the wait list once the second lottery is completed. (See No. 3 and 4).

3. How's the second round affect the first round of applicants? For each magnet school or program, a third of available magnet seats are available for each of the three socioeconomic "brackets" designated by CMS (high, medium and low). If anyone applies in the second round of the lottery that didn't apply in the first, and they fit in one of the brackets that still has availability at the school of choice, they would get a seat … yes, before someone in another socioeconomic bracket that applied in the first round where all seats are taken. 

4. The final countdown. Once the second magnet lottery results are finalized, then anyone who is in the wait pool from the first round is given priority over second lottery applicants on the school's wait list for the school listed as their first choice. I've learned through my few years as a parent of a CMS student, that you might get a call in the middle of summer or even a couple days after school starts that a seat is available in your magnet school/program of choice. It works like any wait list: people move or people change their minds and students get moved up the list.

It's a lot to process, but if you didn't get your first choice this go around, there's still a chance. And if you want to apply in the second round of the school choice lottery, you have until March 29, 10 p.m.