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Last Upated: March 1, 2021
Deciding where to send your child to school is a big decision (no pressure)! Fortunately, you’re not alone. Thousands of Oregon parents are making K-12 education decisions each year. And remember, each child is unique. So, the “best” school for your neighbor’s child may be different than the “best” school for your child.
In Oregon, you have access to more K-12 education options than you might realize. Navigating these options can help you find a great school for your child. In short, the six types of schools you can choose from are traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and learning pods.
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Most children in Oregon attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free, open to all students, operated by districts, and funded by taxpayers like you. On average, Oregon spends $11,905 per public school student each year.
Most states have some form of open enrollment, which refers to whether parents can send their child to a public school other than their assigned school. This is an important choice, widening parents’ options and ensuring that their zip code isn’t the sole determiner of their education.
Unfortunately, Oregon does not currently have open enrollment for public schools. The state of Oregon established temporary open enrollment between school districts in 2012 to support school choice, but the policy ended in 2019. While open enrollment is not available to Oregon families, they may still request an interdistrict transfer.
Find out more about public schools in your state here: Oregon’s Department of Education.
Oregon families can currently choose from more than 120 public charter schools. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and typically have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they have extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Charters are accountable to authorizing bodies for results.
Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. For instance, that might be offering a Spanish immersion program or a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system (like drawing random names out of a hat!) is usually used to determine admittance.
Recently we talked to an Oregon public charter school with a dual enrollment program, Baker Early College. “The whole point of the early college is if a student is ready to go to college while they’re in high school, we want to facilitate and make that happen,” described superintendent Daniel Huld. “Our students complete all of their classes at the local community colleges. In the case of eastern Oregon, we actually have students going to Eastern Oregon University.”
You can also choose 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. There are several magnet schools in Oregon. For example, you can read about Bend La Pine School District’s magnet choices, Portland Public Schools’ choices, and Beaverton Schools’ magnet choices. If there is one near you with a theme that interests your child, this could be an exciting choice to consider.
Families in Oregon can also consider private schools, nonpublic schools that charge tuition. Private schools may offer a unique curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a faith-based tradition. Oregon’s more than 275 private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs.
The average tuition for private schools in the state is $9,449 per year, but keep in mind that schools often are more affordable at the elementary level than high school. Unfortunately, there are no state-run scholarship options in Oregon at present, but private scholarships may be available.
Also, parents can save for K-12 private school tuition using tax-preferred 529 savings accounts.
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.
Oregon offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, like Oregon Connections Academy and Oregon Virtual Academy. A complete list of Oregon schools powered by the online education organization K12 is available. Some of these online schools accept students in certain districts or grades while others are open to all students. For students in rural areas, the Oregon Digital Learning Academy provides part-time supplemental courses online, at no charge to students.
In order for funding to follow a student to online school, the student’s family must submit a letter of intent, stating that they will be enrolling in a virtual school. You can learn more about the online school community at the Oregon Virtual Public School Alliance.
Both Oregon Connections Academy and Oregon Virtual Academy have seats available in grades K-12 as long as the 3% state cap has not been met (only up to three percent of students in any public school district across the state can enroll in one of Oregon’s full-time virtual schools). As of December 2020, Oregon Virtual Academy is accepting applications for its waitlist only.
At Oregon Connections Academy, one laptop and an internet stipend may be requested per household. Oregon Virtual Academy supplies families with a computer and a twice a year stipend to offset technology and wifi costs.
Oregon families can also choose to homeschool, which allows for high levels of customized learning and flexibility. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home and is permitted in all 50 states.
In Oregon, notice of your intent to homeschool is required within 10 days of starting. 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 the process.
Oregon offers limited funding assistance for homeschooling if you are enrolled via a charter.
You may also want to check out the Oregon Department of Education’s Homeschooling page, the Oregon Home Education Network, Home School Legal Defense Association – Oregon, and the Oregon Christian Home Education Association Network.
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 Oregon. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschooled students in Oregon 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 Oregon 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 full-time online schools that are available to students statewide.
Oregon officials have suggested that they may regulate multi-family pod programs under the state’s childcare guidelines.
For additional information about school choices in Oregon, 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!
Oregon celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 264 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in Oregon.
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