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Last Upated: March 17, 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?
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. Ohio families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and learning pods.
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First off, you can choose traditional public school. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by taxpayers like you. Ohio spends, on average, $13,051 per public school student each year.
Ohio has restricted open enrollment for public school. Open enrollment refers to whether parents can choose to send their child to any public school in Ohio, regardless of their zip code or the location of the school. Based on Ohio’s laws, a parent may or may not be able to choose a traditional public school in another district, so you should check with your local district to learn more. In most open enrollment cases, parents are responsible for transportation to the new public school of choice, or at least for getting their student to a regular bus stop along the school’s route. Low-income families or those participating in a court-approved desegregation plan may be reimbursed for transportation to that bus stop or provided transportation directly, respectively.
If open enrollment is an option for you, you can visit multiple public schools in your area and discover which best fits 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.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Ohio Department of Education.
Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. In Ohio, charter schools are commonly referred to as “Community Schools.” Community schools or charter schools have been allowed in Ohio since 1997. Today there are more than 300 such schools.
Each community school or public charter school has a charter explaining the school’s purpose and what community need it serves. That could be providing a technical track or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a charter school usually uses a lottery system to randomly determine admittance.
We talked to Dr. Landon Brown, principal at Emerson Academy, who shared how invested his charter school teachers and staff are in the local community. “Current research suggests that urban students (particularly minority males) need to see teachers outside of the classroom environment first before they make a connection inside the classroom,” Brown said. “That old educational adage is true, ‘Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!’”
Magnet schools are free public schools. They allow kids to zoom 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. Ohio has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state. These might be a good option if your kid learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about! You can read more about magnet schools in the Cincinnati Public Schools district. You can also read about Lima City Schools’ magnet schools.
Ohio families can also choose private schools! Private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition. These learning environments may pass on a faith tradition, have a distinctive curriculum, or offer a personalized classroom environment. There are more than 1,000 private schools across the state of Ohio.
The average tuition for private schools in the state is $6,938 per year, but keep in mind that schools often are more affordable at the elementary level than high school. Ohio offers several state-run funding programs. These include a scholarship program for students with autism spectrum disorders, a scholarship program for students with special needs, and students from low-income households. Additionally, students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District are eligible for scholarships to attend neighboring private schools. Finally, Ohio’s Educational Choice Scholarship Program provides vouchers for students assigned to low-performing public schools.
Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment, you may be interested in trying virtual school. Students in elementary through high school grades may enroll full-time or part-time in courses through Northwest Ohio Virtual Academy at no cost, but they must register through a school district. Each school district determines availability, acceptance, and logistics for their students’ courses. Other free, full-time online learning options are also available, such as Ohio Virtual Academy and Ohio Connections Academy. Students aged 16-21 needing extra academic and emotional support may be interested to finish high school may be interested in Ohio Digital Learning School.
You can learn more about the Ohio online learning community at the Ohio e-School Families and Friends Coalition.
As of December 2020, Ohio Connections Academy has openings in grades K-11, while Ohio Virtual Academy has openings for students to enroll in grades K-12. Ohio Digital Learning School has seats available for students in grades 9-12 who are between 16 and 21-years-old.
At Ohio Connections Academy, a computer and an internet subsidy will be provided to families. At Ohio Virtual Academy, a computer, printer, software, and internet subsidy will be provided to families. Ohio Digital Learning School provides a computer if the student qualifies for free or reduced lunch.
Homeschooling is another choice available to Ohio families. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states.
In Ohio, it is required that you provide notice of your intent to homeschool no later than the first week of school or within one week of withdrawal. You must also provide notice annually and if you move. 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, contact your local school to determine their process.
Ohio offers funding assistance if a student has an IEP. These students may qualify for the Peterson Scholarship.
If you are looking for a highly customizable and flexible education for your child and think homeschooling could fit the bill, check out the Ohio Department of Education’s Homeschooling page, Ohio Homeschooling Parents, Home School Legal Defense Association – Ohio, and the Christian Home Educators of Ohio.
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 Ohio. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschooled students in Ohio may still be eligible to participate in sports, activities, or classes at local public schools.
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 Ohio 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 multiple free, full-time online schools that are available to students statewide.
For additional information about school choices in Ohio, 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!
Ohio celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 1,609 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Ohio.
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