Choosing a school? You’ve got options.
Each spring, parents face one of the biggest decisions they can make for their child’s future: What school environment will their child spend about 1,000 hours in next year? Let’s dive in to school choice in Delaware.
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. Delaware families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online learning, homeschooling, and microschooling and mix-and-match learning.
Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Delaware at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
- Traditional Public Schools
- Public Charter Schools
- Public Magnet Schools
- Private Schools
- Online Schools
Delaware Traditional Public Schools
Most children in Delaware (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. Each year, Delaware spends an average of $17,448 per public school pupil. You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
Delaware has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in Delaware, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. As long as the school has room, your child should be accepted. While districts are not allowed to charge tuition for transfer students, parents are responsible for transportation of students participating in open enrollment.
You can take advantage of this valuable 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.
Families interested in submitting choice applications for participating public school districts in Delaware can do so online at SchoolChoiceDE. The deadline for applications is usually around mid-January for the upcoming school year. In Delaware, districts are required to post their open enrollment policies on their website, so you may also want to check out your district’s website!
Find out more about public schools in your state at the Delaware State Department of Education. You can also learn more about Delaware open enrollment in “Public Schools Without Boundaries: A 50-State Ranking.”
Delaware Charter Schools
Families have another public school choice in charter schools; these are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with earning methods. Sometimes charter schools are compared to sailboats; they aren’t built to serve as many people as luxury liners are, but it is easier to adjust the sails and change directions with the wind. The innovations charter schools offer can complement traditional public school’s stability.
Delaware passed charter school legislation in 1995. Today, Delaware has more than 20 active charter schools – you can find a complete list at the Department of Education. As of 2022, about 18,000 Delaware students attended charter schools, which is about 12% of the public school population.
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.
Families interested in submitting choice applications for participating charter schools in Delaware can do so online at SchoolChoiceDE. To learn more, you can also check out The Delaware Charter Schools Network.
Delaware Magnet Schools
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.
Delaware has a few magnet schools scattered throughout the state; these could be a great option if there is one near you and your child learns best by focusing in on a subject they are passionate about. Cab Calloway School of the Arts in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, for instance, allows students to major in dance, digital media, vocal music, theatre arts, and more. Conrad Schools of Science, also in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, offers a life science magnet. In the Indian River School district, Southern Delaware School of the Arts seeks to facilitate student learning through the arts.
Delaware Private Schools
You can also choose private school! Private schools come in all shapes and forms, from schools that help pass on a family’s faith tradition to schools designed for children with special needs. You probably know that private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. But did you know that, since 2018, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts?
There are about 130 private schools across the state of Delaware. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $10,186 for elementary schools and $11,694 for high schools. Unfortunately, in Delaware there are no state-run scholarship options for private schools, but private scholarships may be available, such as through the Delaware KIDS Fund.
Delaware Online Learning
Most states have free online school programs. Delaware does not have an official state online school, but the Christina School District in New Castle County offers a fully virtual academy. Families outside of the district may be able to use open enrollment to attend the school.
Additionally, some Delaware districts offer part-time online courses, and some high schools allow students to participate in the University of Delaware’s Online High School’s dual enrollment courses.
Paid options are also available, such as George Washington University Online High School, The Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy. These private online schools are available to families in Delaware for a fee, but they are not specific to the state.
To read more about online learning in Delaware, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.
Delaware parents can also choose homeschooling, the process of parents educating students at home. Homeschooling is permitted in all 50 states.
In Delaware, the state requires notice of your intent to homeschool before establishing yourself as a homeschool and annually before October 5th. The state also requires that your homeschool submit an end-of-year attendance report. You should also notify your public school of your intent to withdraw.
You are not required to teach specific subjects or use specific standardized tests if you choose to homeschool in Delaware. Keep in mind that children who are homeschooled may face roadblocks if they want to participate in public school sports. But you can always look for other sports leagues and activities near you. In Delaware, if you decide to switch back to public school, it is up to the school to decide what grade to place your child in.
You can find a great how-to about Delaware homeschooling at Home School Legal Defense Association – Delaware. You can also check out the Department of Education’s homeschooling page or Tri-State Homeschool, Inc.
Delaware Microschools and Mix-and-Match Learning
Increasingly, Delaware families are mixing and matching school options to come up with new ways to personalize education. Microschools are one of these ways. A microschool refers to students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Microschools can take a variety of shapes and legal forms, from homeschoolers coming together at an enrichment center to a private school committed to small classrooms. What microschools share in common is a commitment to small-group learning, close-knit relationships, and emphasizing children as individual learners.
Here are a few examples of innovative learning arrangements in Delaware:
The United Way of Delaware has partnered with school districts, like the Christina School District, to offer Learning Support Groups to hundreds of low-income students statewide.
R.O.O.T.S. (Reaching Outside of Traditional Schooling) is a family-founded initiative to teach self-sufficiency and altruism in the Georgetown community. The program is located on a family homestead and teaches life-skills workshops.
Remember, microschooling is more a mentality than a specific legal distinction in most cases. Often, a family participates in a microschool while legally homeschooling, or being enrolled in a private or online school.
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For additional information about school choices in Delaware, visit these resources: