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There will be thousands more L.A. Unified magnet school seats in 2017

Magnet schools in Los Angeles are growing. 

Los Angeles Unified School District board members unanimously voted Tuesday to create or expand 13 magnet programs for the 2017-18 school year, for a total of 4,677 new magnet seats costing around $3.5 million. 

This boost comes in addition to around 6,300 seats that will open this fall through 16 new magnet programs and 14 existing ones that are expanding.

Magnet schools are the themed schools originally introduced as the keystone of L.A.'s school desegregation plan: About a fourth have racial quotas, and unlike other L.A. Unified schools, the district provides busing for students outside neighborhood bounds. These schools are now becoming a key component of the district's attempts to keep students from fleeing to charter schools.

By fall 2018, there will be at least 225 magnet schools and programs in Los Angeles Unified, compared with 198 this year with about 67,700 enrolled.

Most of the programs approved Tuesday focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, known as "STEAM." One elementary school is named slightly differently, as a "Design, Research, Engineering, Arts, Math and Science" magnet.

There is demand for the programs — magnets in L.A. Unified accepted fewer than half of the 44,000 applicants for magnet schools in the 2016-17 school year.

“The magnets are what our parents want,” board member Richard Vladovic said during Tuesday's board meeting. “We should do everything possible to facilitate that. ... I think every school in our district should be a thematic school.”

Almost all of the new magnets will share campuses with existing schools. Usually magnets are able to expand because there's already space on campus, from changes such as declining enrollment or because the campus used to share its space with another school.

The number of seats range from 132 to more than 1,000 per campus, and they're located throughout the district, from the San Fernando Valley to San Pedro. Three of the new programs are in Wilmington.

At Westminster Elementary and Griffith Middle School, the magnets will take over the entire campus with an added 201 seats and 1,020 seats, respectively.

The board also approved a Center for Enriched Studies for grades 6-12 in Maywood, which will occupy a new campus near Bell High School. One goal there is to reduce overcrowding at Bell High School and convert it from the last year-round school in L.A. Unified to a two-semester system. 

The Maywood magnet will have 1,194 seats in the 2017-18 school year and a total of 1,425 by 2018-19.

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.

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