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Last Upated: September 27, 2021
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? Sound familiar?
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 is excited to learn. Maryland 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 Maryland at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
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Most children in Maryland (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 taxpayers like you. Did you know Maryland spends an average of $15,148 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
Most states have some form of open enrollment. This refers to whether parents can send their child to a public school other than their assigned school. Open enrollment is an important choice, expanding parents’ options and ensuring that zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education. Unfortunately, Maryland does not currently have public open enrollment.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Maryland’s Department of Education.
You can also choose charter schools. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Maryland has more than 40 charter schools that parents can choose from.
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 STEAM 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. For more information on charter schools in your state, check out the Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools.
Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as an International Baccalaureate program or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track. Maryland has several magnet schools throughout the state; for instance, there are more than 30 magnet schools or programs in the Baltimore county area. Some of the other districts with magnet schools include Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Washington County Public Schools, and Prince George’s County Public Schools. If your child learns well through diving deeply into a particular subject, a magnet school could be a good fit.
As you may know, private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Maryland has a variety of private schools, both religious and non-religious. Maryland has one private school choice program, the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program, which provides state-run educational scholarships for families under a certain income level.
There are more than 830 private schools across the state of Maryland. Tuition varies widely, but the average in the state is $12,451 for elementary schools and $16,535 for high schools. Maryland has one private school choice program, the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Program, which provides state-run educational scholarships for families under a certain income level. More than 3,000 Maryland students took advantage of this program in the 2019-2020 school year.
Online learning is sometimes overlooked, but it offers a uniquely flexible learning environment. For example, some families use this flexibility to accelerate learning. Meanwhile, others use it to provide a quieter, stress-free environment for learning. Whatever the reason, you may want to try online learning. Unfortunately, Maryland does not currently have its own free, full-time online learning program. But, there are paid, full-time online school options available to families in all 50 states, Maryland included. Some of these paid providers are George Washington University Online High School, The Keystone School, and K12 International Academy.
A local private online option Maryland families can choose is Bryn Mawr Online, a diploma awarding, AIMS accredited, NCAA approved, and AP authorized online school for girls. The school is an outgrowth of Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, which is ranked as the number one college prep school in Maryland. Bryn Mawr Online is currently enrolling rising 9th and 10th grade students for an initial cohort for the 2022-2023 school year.
In addition, the Eastern Shore of Maryland Blended Virtual Program offers a blended learning program to public school students in grades 6-12 in certain Maryland districts. These include: Caroline County, Cecil County, Dorchester County, Kent County, Queen Anne’s County, Somerset County, Talbot County, Wicomico County and Worcester County public schools.
Also, Maryland families have a sixth option in homeschooling, which is the process of parents educating students at home. Homeschooling is permitted in all 50 states. If you are looking for a highly customizable and flexible education for your child and think homeschooling could fit the bill, learn more about Maryland’s homeschooling rules.
In Maryland, notice of your intent to homeschool is required immediately upon making this decision or your student will be considered truant. It is also required that you formally withdraw from your public school. In the case that you decide to return to public school in the middle of the school year, placement decisions will vary by county. Contact your local school to find out their procedures.
Note that Maryland homeschool families are never required to enroll their children in public school. If you receive information to the contrary, you may want to ask for legal assistance.
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 Maryland. 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 Maryland 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 private, full-time online school for a fee.
In addition, you can visit these resources to learn more about school choices in Maryland:
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!
Maryland celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 487 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Maryland.
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