West Virginia School Choice Roadmap

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: January 19, 2023

Choosing a school? You’ve got options. 

“What are my school choices in West Virginia?” It’s a great question. There are a variety of options available for West Virginia families. Knowing these options can help you find a learning environment where your child is actively learning and growing. 

In West Virginia, families can choose from traditional public 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 West Virginia at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.

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Traditional public schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public charter schools do not charge tuition. They are usually managed by nonprofit organizations and do not require students to pass tests to enroll.
Public magnet schools do not charge tuition. They are managed by school districts and focus on themes, such as math, science, technology, and the arts.
Private schools charge tuition, but scholarships are often available via state programs or by individual schools. Private schools are privately managed and can be faith-based or secular.

      West Virginia Traditional Public Schools

      Most West Virginia families choose traditional public schools, which are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by taxpayers. Did you know that, on average, West Virginia spends $12,375 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.

      In West Virginia, the state allows each district 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. Open enrollment is an important way that parents have access to a broader variety of public schools; if you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your school district to learn if this is an option available to you.

      For a real-world example of open enrollment, check out Wayne County Schools’ transfer application form. Find out more about public schools in your state at the West Virginia Department of Education.

      West Virginia Charter Schools

      Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and usually have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they have extra freedom to innovate with learning methods. Public charter schools are accountable to authorizing bodies (like school districts or colleges) for results.

      West Virginia passed legislation authorizing charter schools in 2019. In 2021, the state passed a law creating a new authorizer for charter schools. It also expanded the number of charter schools that could be established in a three-year period from three to 10 schools and allowed for up to two statewide virtual charter schools. Excitingly, West Virginia’s first four charter schools are open for the 2022-2023 school year. These include two brick-and-mortar schools – Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy in Jefferson County and West Virginia Academy in the greater Morgantown area – as well as two virtual charter schools – Virtual Prep Academy and West Virginia Virtual Academy. About 1,500 West Virginia students are expected to choose these charters in their first year of operation.

      Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves, whether that be providing a career and technical education 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 (like drawing random names out of a hat!) is usually used to determine admittance. 

      West Virginia 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. West Virginia has a handful of magnet schools scattered throughout the state, and these might be a good option if your child learns best by focusing in on a subject they are passionate about. For example, you can read about some of the magnet choices in the Kanawha County Schools. And in Berkeley County Schools, Howe Hall Arts Infused Magnet School offers students learning through the arts. You can contact your school district to see if there are any magnet choices near you.

      West Virginia Private Schools

      Families in West Virginia 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. West Virginia’s private schools come in all shapes and forms, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. 

      There are more than 100 private schools across the state of West Virginia. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $6,315 for elementary schools and $6,903 for high schools.

      In 2021, West Virginia created the Hope Scholarship program, which would allow West Virginia students currently enrolled in public school or about to enter kindergarten to use their education tax dollars for private school tuition, tutoring, educational therapy, or other educational expenses. The program was ruled constitutional by the West Virginia Supreme Court on October 6, 2022. Before the Hope Scholarship was halted by a now-overturned injunction, more than 3,000 students had been approved for the program for the 2022-2023 school year, and applications .

      Learn more at Private School Review: West Virginia. 

      West Virginia Online Learning

      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.

      West Virginia public school students can access part-time or full-time online learning for free through the West Virginia Virtual School. Enrollment takes place through a student’s local school district, which may set guidelines and determine the number of courses a student can take. Non-public and homeschool students can access the virtual courses by enrolling as a part-time student in their local school. Fees apply for summer online courses, and in some other cases.

      There are also two virtual charter schools open to West Virginia students statewide as of the 2022-2023 school year in West Virginia. These schools are the Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia and West Virginia Virtual Academy, which has a career-technical focus.

      Finally, in some cases, districts have developed their own virtual offerings, like Kanawha County Schools Virtual School and Upshur County Virtual School

      To read more about online learning in West Virginia, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

      West Virginia Homeschooling

      West Virginia families can also choose to homeschool, which allows for high levels of customized learning and flexibility. All 50 states allow the process of parents educating students at home.

      In West Virginia, notice of your decision to homeschool if required either by seeking school board approval or by submitting a notice of intent. This notice of intent is required before you begin homeschooling or when moving to a new county. It is recommended that you formally withdraw from your public school so your student is not marked truant. 

      The state requires homeschooling parents to teach certain subjects, and also may require some level of assessment of homeschoolers. Note that, in some cases, homeschoolers in West Virginia may still be eligible to participate in sports or activities at their local public school.

      While misinformation about homeschooling has recently spread in a couple of West Virginia counties, the truth is that homeschool students in West Virginia receive credit, diplomas, and transcripts recognized by state law. Find more resources about homeschooling specific to West Virginia.

      West Virginia Learning Pods

      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. 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.

      In 2022, West Virginia become one of the first states to sign official definitions of learning pods and microschools into law, distinguishing them from other types of schooling. According to the West Virginia bill, a learning pod in the state is ““a voluntary association of parents choosing to group their children together to participate in their elementary or secondary academic studies as an alternative to enrolling in a public school, private school, homeschool, or microschool.”

      West Virginia law defines a microschool as “a school initiated by one or more teachers or an entity created to operate a school that charges tuition for the students who enroll and is an alternative to enrolling in a public school, private school, homeschool, or learning pod.”

      Families participating in learning pods or microschools are exempt from compulsory school attendance, but must meet certain requirements. For example, parents must notify the county superintendent or county board of their intent to participate in a learning pod or microschool, and students must complete annual assessments that are submitted to the county superintendent.

      With approval from their county board, students participating in a learning pod or microschool in West Virginia may participate in part-time classes at their local school.

      Education Resources for West Virginia Parents 

       For additional information about school choices in West Virginia, visit these resources: 

      West Virginia celebrates school choice week


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