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Last Upated: May 24, 2022
Each spring, parents face one of the biggest decisions they can make for their child’s future: What school environment will their child will spend about 1,000 hours in next year?
Making that decision with confidence starts with knowing what options you have; you may have more school choices than you realize! Understanding these options can help you find a school where your child grows and learns to the best of their ability. New Hampshire families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and learning pods.
Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in New Hampshire at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
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Most New Hampshire families choose traditional public schools. Districts operate these schools, which are free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. New Hampshire spends, on average, $17,900 per public school student each year. You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
In New Hampshire, the state allows each district decides to set its own open enrollment policies. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. New Hampshire parents wanting to transfer their child to a different public school than the one they are assigned should contact their local school district to see if this is an option. In 2021, the state made this process more defined for parents if their student is experiencing “manifest educational hardship.” For a real-world example of the transfer process and timeline in New Hampshire, check out Kearsarge Regional School District’s guidelines for transfer requests.
If the public school of choice is within the same district, transportation is provided. If it is in a different school district, parents are responsible for transportation. Open enrollment is a valuable form of public school choice because it widens parents options, ensuring that their zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: New Hampshire’s Department of Education.
Families in New Hampshire have another tuition-free option in charter schools. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and usually have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Public charter schools are accountable to authorizing entities, such as colleges or school districts, for results.
In New Hampshire, there are about 30 public charter schools that parents can choose from across the state. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves, whether that be providing a language immersion program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system is usually used to determine admittance.
You can learn about these options at the New Hampshire Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Depending on where you live in New Hampshire, you may also be able to consider a magnet school. Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. Depending on where you live in New Hampshire, you may be able to consider a magnet school. Maple Street Magnet School is currently the only magnet school we are aware of in New Hampshire. Maple Street Magnet School’s unique focus is on community and sustainability. Students accepted to Maple Street Magnet School through its blind lottery can choose to attend the magnet school rather than their neighborhood school.
Families in New Hampshire can also consider private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Private schools may offer a unique curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a faith-based tradition. New Hampshire’s more than 280 private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. Check out this directory of New Hampshire private schools.
Private school tuition can vary widely, but the state average is $11,369 for elementary schools and $28,989 for high schools. According to New Hampshire’s Town Tuitioning Program, if your town doesn’t have a district school at your grade level, your district will pay for your child to attend a public or private school in or outside of New Hampshire. As of 2021, this may include religious private schools.
In addition, students from a household where family income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($79,500 for a family of four in 2021-2022) can apply to the state’s tax credit program. Recipients of the program receive scholarships to use for private school tuition, tutoring, or other educational expenses.
Plus, in 2021, New Hampshire passed an “Education Freedom Account” program. This program allows low and middle-income students to receive funds to customize their education. The funds can be used to choose a private school, pay for tutoring or books, put toward educational therapy, and more.
Online learning is sometimes overlooked, but it offers a uniquely flexible learning environment that meets a variety of family needs. Whether your child wants to accelerate his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try.
New Hampshire middle and high school students can take courses free of charge, full- or part-time, at Virtual Learning Academy Charter. If there will be a gap between attendance at a student’s previous school and their start at the virtual school, the student must file a notice of intent at their local public school. Currently, Virtual Learning Academy Charter only offers part-time online learning for K-5 students.
At Virtual Learning Academy Charter, ongoing registration is available; you may enroll at any time throughout the year.
Virtual Learning Academy Charter does not have a cap on the number of students it enrolls.
Virtual Learning Academy Charter does not provide technology and wifi to students.
To read more about online learning in New Hampshire, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.
You can also choose homeschooling, the process of parents educating students at home. Homeschooling is permitted in all 50 states and allows for a highly personal and customizable learning experience.
In New Hampshire, it is required that you provide notice of your intent to homeschool within 5 days of starting and/or if you move to a new school district. It is recommended that you formally withdraw so your student is not marked truant. If you decide to stop homeschooling, you must file a written notice of termination. In the case that you decide to return to public school, your student’s placement will be determined based on the documentation you provide.
The state requires homeschooling parents to teach specific subjects (including science, math, reading, and government) and also requires some level of assessment of homeschooled students. Your homeschooled student might still be eligible to participate in sports or activities at the local public school.
Check out a how-to about homeschooling in New Hampshire.
Micro-schools, pods, pandemic pods, and learning pods all refer to the same concept: students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Pods themselves can take a variety of legal forms, but in general they can be separated into two categories: self-directed pod (homeschool, homeschool collaborative, or micro-school) and learning support pod. It’s important to understand what kind of pod you are signing up for and the requirements that go along with it. Learn more about learning pods.
If your learning pod or micro-school is choosing its own curriculum and each family is directing their own children’s schooling, it likely qualifies as a homeschool in New Hampshire. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA. Note that homeschooled students in New Hampshire may still be eligible to participate in sports, activities, or classes at local public schools.
New Hampshire’s state commissioner of education has said that learning pods are permitted by New Hampshire law and families may have family members or friends supervise children in the parent’s absence.
If your learning pod contains more than two families and will have teachers leading unique classes just for your school, it may qualify as a private school. You can read more about what New Hampshire classifies as a private school, how they’re regulated, and how to start one.
If your child is going to be enrolled in remote learning through your local public school and supervised by an adult in your learning pod, you do not need to register as a homeschool or private school. Keep in mind that you have multiple online learning options, including free full or part-time middle and high school classes through Virtual Learning Academy Charter.
For the 2021-2022 school year, the Bow, Dunbarton, Fremont, Haverhill, and Londonberry school districts in New Hampshire have announced they are offering Prenda-run learning pods for families who may not be comfortable with full in-person schooling. The learning pods are being funded by a state grant and currently serve about 100 students.
For additional information about school choices in New Hampshire, visit these resources:
National School Choice Week 2022 will take place January 23 – 29, 2022. We encourage all schools, homeschool groups, organizations and individuals to join the celebration. Check out ideas, inspiration, and more information!
New Hampshire will celebrate National School Choice Week 2022 with 105 events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in New Hampshire.
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