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Last Upated: March 1, 2021
If you live in New Jersey, you have access to more K-12 education options than you might realize. Navigating these options can help you find a school where your child thrives, but it can also feel overwhelming at first. This post will breakdown the six types of schools available to you in New Jersey, as well as provide additional education resources to help you find the best learning environment for your child.
There are a variety of school choices available to New Jersey families. You can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and learning pods.
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Most New Jersey families choose traditional public schools, which are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by federal, state, and local government. Did you know that New Jersey spends an average of $16,543 per public school student each year?
In New Jersey, 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 Jersey 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 for them. For students living farther than 2 or 2.5 miles from their public school of choice but closer than 20 miles, the sending district is responsible for transporting the child to their new school.
Open enrollment is an important public school choice, widening parents’ options and ensuring that their zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: New Jersey’s Department of Education.
Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Charter schools can collaborate with traditional classrooms to share the fruits of their innovation. As of May 2019, New Jersey had 88 charter schools in operation serving approximately 52,000 students. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves, whether that be providing a Chinese 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.
We interviewed administration at Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School, New Jersey’s first school with a specific focus on green, renewable energy. “Every school has a theme, every school has its own philosophy, and every parent should be given the chance to pick how they want to raise their child and what school they want the child to go to,” said Lead Person Oguz Yildiz. “School choice is one important way parents can play an active role in receiving the best education possible for their children.”
Check out more about your state’s charter schools at the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association.
You can also choose magnets! Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to focus on specific themes, like STEM, health sciences, or the performing arts. New Jersey has several magnet schools throughout the state. If there’s one near you with a theme your child is interested in, this could be an exciting option to consider.
For instance, you can read about Montclair Public Schools’ approach to magnet schools, Union County Vocational-Technical Schools’ offerings, and Newark Public Schools’ seven magnet schools. New Jersey Family recently posted this opinion piece with some additional information on New Jersey’s magnet schools.
Of course, private schools are another choice for New Jersey families. Private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. There are more than 750 private schools across the state of New Jersey. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $13,683 per year, but keep in mind that schools often are more affordable at the elementary level than high school.
These schools come in all shapes and sizes. For instance, we recently talked to Dr. Robert Beebe, Principal at New Hope School, a private K-8 school in Clifton, New Jersey. He told us about the private school’s character development program and partnership with parents, describing how the school was founded by a couple of moms who were looking for a values-based education for their children. “[Our approach to education] begins with what we call cultivation of the heart,” said Beebe. “This begins in the home before even coming to school. We should first of all be concerned about developing children’s hearts, which is the basis of their character.”
Unfortunately, there are no state-run scholarship options in New Jersey, though private scholarships may be available. Also, the federal government allows parents to save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.
Don’t overlook online learning! 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.
Unfortunately, New Jersey does not have a free, full-time online school option. However, New Jersey Virtual School offers full-time and credit-recovery enrollment to students in grades 6-12 for a fee. The deadline to enroll in New Jersey Virtual School is August 7, 2020. Currently, all grades have some courses available, though some courses are full. If students are interested in enrolling mid-year, they may be able to sign up for semester-only courses for the spring. Students attending New Jersey Virtual School must have access to technology and wifi; the school does not supply these for families.
Besides New Jersey Virtual School, students can also consider other paid online school options, like George Washington University Online High School, The Keystone School, and K12 International Academy.
Parents in all 50 states can also consider homeschooling, the process of educating students at home. Homeschooling offers opportunities for highly customized, personal learning.
In New Jersey, it is not required that you provide notice of your intent to homeschool; however, it is recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant. In the case that you decide to return to public school in the middle of the school year, your student’s placement will be based on standardized testing assessment.
More information on New Jersey homeschooling is available.
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 Jersey. 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 New Jersey 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.
In New Jersey, providing care for more than six children under the age of 13 requires a childcare license. The state is allowing for an expedited licensure process this school year.
For additional information about school choices in New Jersey, 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 Jersey celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 886 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in New Jersey.
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