Diane Cotran had a slight advantage this year as her family pondered a Richland 2 middle school magnet program for her 10-year-old son Mazen.
"We already decided on LAW (Leadership Academy at Wright) because our daughter is there," she said.
January is the month Richland 2 parents must make application for the nearly 30 magnet programs available at elementary, middle and high schools.
The online process, at ww.richland2.org, opened Tuesday and will run through Jan. 29. During that time, parents also may apply to the "choice" program if they want their children to attend a school for which they are not zoned.
This year, there are is one new designated magnet, the School for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Joseph Keels Elementary, which is will now be offered as a whole-school magnet.
Also worth noting: three schools - Blythewood High, Ridge View High and Lake Carolina Elementary - are closed to choice because they are at full capacity.
Throughout January, individual schools are holding information sessions on the various programs and many students will spend a day "shadowing" a prospective magnet to determine if it is the right fit.
Mazen is currently a fifth-grader at Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary, where he attends the Academy for Civic Engagement, a "school within a school" program there.
The academy, which focuses on civic involvement through government, economics and service, flows nicely into the goals of LAW, said ACE lead teacher Dawn Smith.
Cotran said her daughter, Alexa, has thrived there and she expects her son will as well.
Last year, there were 4,017 online applications, including 2,963 for magnet programs, said district spokeswoman Theresa Riley.