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Last Upated: July 27, 2021
Deciding where to send your child to school is one of the biggest decisions you face as a parent. Navigating your choices for K-12 education starts with knowing what options are available to you in Connecticut. There may be more options than you realize! Once you’re equipped with knowing your options, you can make the best choice for your family.
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Most children in Connecticut (and in America) attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by federal, state, and local government. Did you know that Connecticut spends an average of $21,310 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
Connecticut has restricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that parents in some Connecticut cities may be able to choose traditional public schools outside of their districts. This applies in Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London, and may apply in other cities. Local boards of education decide whether to provide transportation for students participating in open enrollment.
If you live in an area of Connecticut with open enrollment, take advantage of this option by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for your family. Traditional public schools aren’t all the same: They may differ in learning methods and one may just “feel different” than another to you. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your local district for more information.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Connecticut’s Department of Education.
Charter schools are another free school option for Connecticut families. Connecticut has more than 20 public charter schools that parents can choose from. 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 and are accountable to authorizing entities (like school districts or colleges) for results.
Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. That could be providing a Spanish 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 good old-fashioned lottery system is usually used to determine admittance.
Read about sixth-graders from one Connecticut charter school who made a difference in their community.
To learn more about charter options, check out the Northeast Charter Schools Network.
Depending on where you live in Connecticut, you may also be able to choose a magnet school. These schools are free public schools that allow kids to focus on specific themes or tracks, like STEM or the performing arts. A magnet school might be a good option if your child learns best by focusing on a subject they are passionate about.
Connecticut has more than 80 magnet schools that families can choose from. To find your local magnet school, use the complete list of Greater Hartford area magnet schools, or the complete list of magnet schools outside the Greater Hartford area. You may also find frequently asked questions about Connecticut magnet schools and a family guide to school choice in the greater Hartford Region helpful.
While magnet schools are a choice many parents haven’t heard of, most families are familiar with private schools. Connecticut’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs.
There are more than 400 private schools across the state of Connecticut. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $22,793 for elementary schools and $38,006 for high schools. In Connecticut, there are no state-run scholarships to help families afford private school tuition, but privately-funded scholarships may be available. Additionally, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.
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. While most states have free online school programs, Connecticut only has paid options available at present, such as George Washington University Online High School, The Keystone School, and K12 International Academy. While the schools are available to families in Connecticut, they are not specific to the state.
K12 is actively working to launch an online school in Connecticut, but this is not yet available for families.
Also, Connecticut families can choose homeschooling, the process of parents educating students at home. You can homeschool in all 50 states and homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice. As both technology and school choices have spread in Connecticut, there are more support and resources for homeschooling than ever.
In Connecticut, families should file a notice of intent to homeschool within 10 days of beginning homeschooling. Notice is required annually. It is also recommended that you formally withdraw from your current school so that your student is not marked truant. In the case that you decide to switch back to public school in the middle of the school year, requirements will vary depending on your school. The schools may require a portfolio of work or assessments.
To learn more about homeschooling in Connecticut, check out the Home School Legal Defense Association’s page for a great how-to. You may also wish to check out the Connecticut Department of Education’s homeschooling page, the CT Homeschool Network, or the CT Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers.
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 Connecticut. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here.
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 Connecticut 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 enrolling in a full-time private online school for a fee.
Connecticut’s Department of Education has recognized that many families are considering pods this year, and that in many cases these pods are distinct from homeschooling.
For additional information about school choices in Connecticut, 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!
Connecticut celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 303 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Connecticut.
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