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Students walk in a hallway during a tour of Roger D. Gehring Academy of Science and Technology in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

The Clark County School District on Thursday announced changes designed to expand access to its popular and mostly high-achieving magnet and career and technical education programs.

For the first time, kindergarten will be added to 11 elementary magnet schools, giving families another option, officials said. Previously, magnet programs had only been open to students in first through 12th grade.

The district also dropped admission criteria for the majority of its high school magnet and career and technical education programs. But students interested in STEM-based programs — which focus on science, technology, engineering and math — must meet eligibility requirements. 

The district has 24 STEM-based programs in fields such as architectural design, aerospace engineering, cybersecurity, finance, nursing, video game technology and veterinary science. Students will accrue points based on their first semester grade-point average and performance in math, science and English courses. They must earn at least 16 out of 26 possible points to be included in the lottery for STEM-based programs.

Additionally, students hoping to attend a high school performing arts programs must audition for a seat.

In past years, admissions criteria existed for all high school magnet or career and technical education programs, which critics say excluded students who could have benefited but missed the mark because of struggles in a class or two. Going forward, 29 magnet or career and technical education programs will be interest-based with no admissions criteria. 

Some of those interest-based programs include business management, graphic design, forensic science, landscape design, law, culinary arts, teacher education, cosmetology and photography.

“CCSD’s Magnet Schools offer students of various socio-economic backgrounds, race and academic achievement levels, programs that allow them to discover their talents and abilities, while preparing them to be college and career ready upon graduating high school,” Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara said in a statement. “One of the objectives for our Focus: 2024 plan is to increase Magnet School enrollment and to expand opportunities for all student groups ensuring they represent the community we serve.”

Clark County education officials have long pointed to magnet and career and technical education programs, some of which have won national awards, as an example of high-quality instruction in the district. As a result, the district typically receives more applications than it has available seats.

Students interested in attending a magnet or career and technical education program need to apply by midnight on Jan. 7. If there are more eligible students than seats for a particular program, a lottery will be conducted.

The document below shows which high school programs are based on interest, auditions or criteria: 

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