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Last Upated: April 15, 2021
Choosing where your child goes to school is one of the biggest decisions you face. While it may feel intimidating to navigate your school options in South Dakota and make a choice, you can do it! The best starting point for choosing a good school fit is knowing your options. This post will break down the main learning environments available in your state. In South Dakota, families can choose from traditional public schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling, and learning pods. While not currently options in South Dakota, most other states also offer families public charter schools and public magnet schools.
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Most South Dakota families choose traditional public school for their child. Traditional public schools are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. Did you know that, on average, South Dakota spends $11,430 per public school student each year?
South Dakota has unrestricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that you can send your child to any public school in South Dakota, regardless of where you live or where the school is located. Generally, parents are responsible for their children’s transportation to a school they’ve selected through open enrollment, but districts can choose to cooperate to provide transportation.
You can take advantage of open enrollment by visiting multiple public schools near you and discovering which is the best fit for 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.
South Dakota is one of only five states that have not yet passed laws allowing public charter schools. Charter schools are public schools that are allowed the freedom to innovate while being held accountable for student achievement. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to innovate. They are accountable to an authorizing entity for student achievement. The school’s charter describes what unique community need the school seeks to fill, and the school may be authorized by a governing body, a college, or a school board.
While South Dakota families cannot yet choose public charters, this may be an option in the future.
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. Magnet schools teach all subjects through the lenses of that specific track. If your child learns well through diving deeply into a particular subject, a magnet school could be a good fit.
South Dakota is one of five states that does not currently have any magnet schools. There may be magnet programs in traditional public schools, and the law allows for independent magnet schools, so stay tuned in the future!
Families can also choose private school. South Dakota’s private schools are nonpublic schools that charge tuition and have more freedom in the curricula and structure of learning environment. Private schools may offer a unique curriculum, smaller class sizes, or a faith-based tradition.
There are more than 60 private schools across the state of South Dakota. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $3,624 per year, but keep in mind that schools often are more affordable at the elementary level than high school.
In South Dakota, families with income below 150% of the federal free and reduced-price lunch program may be eligible for a private school scholarship through the Partners in Education Tax Credit Program. Additional funding may be available from other sources.
Learn more at Private School Review: South Dakota.
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.
South Dakota families may be able to take free, online learning courses through their local school district if it participates in an online learning community. Some districts allow students do take online classes full-time, some allow students to take online classes part-time, and some do not allow for online learning. Students taking online courses remain enrolled in their home district and follow their district’s procedures and policies. Typically, registration is only open at certain times of the year and families must supply their own computer and internet access.
In addition, the South Dakota Virtual School, in conjunction with the state Department of Education, offers a list of approved providers for part-time courses. Students coordinate with and register through their local district to take these online classes. Whether the student’s district will absorb the cost of the classes or will require the student to pay a fee varies by district.
Finally, keep in mind that there are paid, full-time online school options that are available to students in all 50 states, South Dakota included. Some of these are George Washington University Online High School, The Keystone School, and K12 International Academy.
South Dakota 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; all 50 states allow it.
In South Dakota, it is required that you provide notice of your intent to homeschool through an official notarized Public School Exemption Certificate prior to the start of homeschooling and annually thereafter. It is 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, South Dakota uses a credit-by-exam program for placement.
According to a bill passed in 2021 to empower parental choice, any homeschool student in South Dakota is eligible to participate in athletics, fine arts, or other activities sponsored by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
Learn more details about homeschooling specific to South Dakota.
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 South Dakota. Read more about the requirements for homeschooling and get tips from HSLDA here. Note that homeschooled students in South Dakota 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 South Dakota 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.
For additional information about school choices in South Dakota, 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!
South Dakota celebrated National School Choice Week 2021 with 63 virtual events and activities across the state. Click the button below to learn more about school choice in South Dakota.
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