Stone Academy. Photo by Will Crooks.

While most students in Greenville County attend the schools they’re zoned for, the district still has the largest number of students in the state who choose to attend schools out of their residence zones.

With 16% of the district’s roughly 76,000 students at out-of-zone schools, the open seats at some schools in the district fill up fast.

Many of the district’s magnet schools — which were created to draw in more students — have the highest wait lists, but traditional schools in the district still dominate the overall number of schools with the biggest wait lists.

The district also compiles a list of schools with the most open seats, which is a factor when administrators determine where to start new school choice programs.

In the past, Greenville County Schools took students at out-of-zone schools on a first-come first-serve basis, but now parents must submit applications early in the year before the students are chosen by a lottery system.

District administrators and school board members with Greenville County Schools plan to evaluate which schools will get new choice programs based on need and capacity.

The biggest obstacle with expanding the choice program — particularly for magnet schools — is the size of the district coupled with a statewide bus driver shortage. Students who attend schools based on choice must have their own transportation, but magnet school students are guaranteed school bus rides.

“The strategic part of what the board needs to do is we have to get to the next generation of what choice looks like and how we enhance that,” said board member Lisa Wells at a board meeting. “Choice may not mean that we have more than 16% of our students crisscrossing across the county, it might mean that we have less because we’re going to allow more opportunities within our schools.”

Students who attend choice or magnet programs in elementary school also have fewer options when moving on to middle and then high schools.

“If you put something in at an elementary school somewhere, where are they going to go to middle school to follow up that program? And if there’s a high school follow-up, where will that be?” Superintendent Burke Royster told board members at a meeting in August. “So it’s a feeder pattern not in the sense of an attendance area feeder pattern, but a programmatic feeder pattern.”

Since students transfer and move a lot at the start of the school year, Greenville County Schools won’t have current numbers until later in the year.

Here are the schools with the biggest wait lists from the 2018-19 school year:

Elementary schools

Stone Academy (magnet school): 104

A.J. Whittenberg: 104

Plain: 65

Brushy Creek: 62

Rudolph Gordon: 56

Pelham Road: 46

Buena Vista: 42

Paris: 39

Monaview: 27

Chandler Creek: 21

Middle schools

League Academy (magnet school): 137

Hughes Academy (magnet school): 84

Riverside Middle: 75

Greenville Middle (magnet school): 43

Beck Academy (magnet school): 39

Mauldin Middle: 27

Rudolph Gordon Middle: 20

High schools

J.L. Mann Academy (magnet school): 107

Mauldin: 93

Eastside: 62

Hillcrest: 38

Here are the schools with the biggest capacity to accept students from the 2018-19 school year:

Elementary schools

Fountain Inn: 290

Greenbriar: 214

Armstrong: 142

Brook Glenn: 140

Ellen Woodside: 134

Tigerville: 122

Heritage: 118

Slater-Marietta: 117

Middle schools

Woodmont: 289

Lakeview: 106

High schools

Greer: 579

Travelers Rest: 392

Blue Ridge: 304

Berea: 290

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