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Last Upated: September 27, 2021
Choosing a school is a big decision; after all, it can have a huge impact on your child’s future! Fortunately, Georgia families have access to an array of K-12 options. Understanding these options can help you find the best match for your child’s unique personality, strengths, and interests. And remember, each child is unique. The “best” school for your child may be different than the “best” school for your neighbor’s child.
This post will breakdown the six types of schools available to you, as well as provide additional education resources for Georgia parents. In short, you 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 Georgia at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
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Most children in Georgia (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, on average, Georgia spends $11,228 per public school pupil each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
Georgia has restricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that Georgia families can send their child to any public school in their school district. In some cases, families can also consider public schools outside their school district. Parents are responsible for transportation of students participating in open enrollment.
Open enrollment is a valuable option because it gives parents more flexibility for where they can send their child; they can visit and research public schools beyond their neighborhood school. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your school district to learn more.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Georgia’s Department of Education.
Families can also consider public charter schools. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. 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.
According to the Georgia Department of Education, there are currently 115 charter schools (not including schools within charter systems) in the state. One of the newest is Atlanta SMART Academy, one of only four performing arts middle schools in Georgia. Check out these frequently asked questions.
You can also learn more at The Georgia Charter Schools Association.
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. Georgia has more than ten magnet schools scattered throughout the state. Districts with magnet schools include Bibb County School District, Richmond County School System, and Muscogee County School District. Additionally, Clayton County Public Schools offers various magnet programs.
Georgia has a variety of private schools, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. In fact, there are about 850 private schools across the state. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $10,554 for elementary schools and $11,669 for high schools.
Georgia’s nonpublic schools do charge tuition, but all public school students in Georgia are eligible to apply for an education expense tax credit program. If you are interested in this option, reach out directly to one of the state’s Student Scholarship Organizations listed on the Georgia Department of Education’s website. These organizations manage private school scholarships and can let you know about availability and next steps.
The state also has a scholarship program for children with special needs. In 2021, this program expanded to include students with a 504 plan for a variety of conditions (autism, cancer, drug abuse, etc.). Additional funding may be available from other sources.
Georgia’s private schools offer unique formats, curricula, and cultures for students to learn in. One private school we talked to, Cornerstone Preparatory Academy, has a format called a “University Model.” Head of School Jeanne Borders describes, “Our secondary students have classes on campus three days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), like at a university. They do their work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays with our assignments given to them. Then we have our elementary kids here on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we partner with their parents to deliver lessons and co-teach on the days that they’re at home. Tuition for both groups of students is much less, and parents and families are involved in the children’s education.”
Learn more at Private School Review: Georgia.
Georgia Virtual School provides online courses at the high school level, plus some middle-school courses as well. Public school students can enroll full-time or part-time at no cost. Some state funds are available to cover tuition for private and homeschool students on a first-come, first-served basis. Other free, full-time online learning options are also available, such as Georgia Connections Academy and Georgia Cyber Academy.
Some districts in Georgia have developed online schools, and families may be able to transfer into one of these schools. For example, the Thomas County Virtual Program serves K-12 students in Thomas county and neighboring counties. And, students in grades 3-11 in Fulton County can also choose Fulton Academy of Virtual Excellence. You can learn more at Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education.
Due to COVID-19, the state allotted $1.2 million in funding to hire new teachers at Georgia Virtual School and provide increased course access for grades 6-12. The state also allotted $3 million in funding to increase wifi availability in high-need neighborhoods, and $1 million to acquire personal internet hotspots for students.
Georgia Cyber Academy’s deadline to enroll was August 29. While first semester enrollment is closed for Georgia Connections Academy, second semester enrollment begins October 10.
As of September 2021, the Georgia Virtual School is accepting applications for its spring 2022 courses. Georgia Connections Academy has met its enrollment cap for grades 5, 8-9, and 11-12, but has seats available for grades 6, 7, and 10. Georgia Cyber Academy is no longer accepting applications for the 2021-2022 school year. The school does offer exceptions for siblings and homeless students to enroll in January.
Georgia Connections Academy does not provide students technology and wifi. At Georgia Cyber Academy, a computer, printer, and hotspot are provided to families that request and meet specific criteria.
Homeschooling is another school option in all 50 states, including Georgia. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home. As both technology and school choices have spread in Georgia, homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice with more support and resources than ever.
In Georgia, the state requires notice of your intent to homeschool by September 1st of the school year or within 30 days of the start of homeschooling. It is 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, you will need to create a withdrawal from homeschool and have your enrolling school validate your homeschool work.
In 2021, Georgia enacted a law that neighborhood schools must allow students to try out for sports teams and extracurricular activities. In return, participating homeschool students must take at least one class at the school.
You can find a great how-to about homeschooling at the Home School Legal Defense Association’s Georgia page, or learn more from the Georgia Department of Education.
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.
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 Georgia. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschooled students with special needs may still be eligible for additional support from the State of Georgia.
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 Georgia 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 several free, full-time online schools that are available to students statewide. In 2021, Georgia passed a law protecting homes and informal places used for learning support pods from state or local regulation.
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!
Georgia celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 1,334 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Georgia.
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