Choosing a school? You’ve got options.
If you live in Mississippi, you have access to more K-12 education options than you might realize. Navigating these options and finding the best fit for your child can make a world of difference for your family. This guide will breakdown the types of schools available to you, as well as provide additional education resources and school choice news.
Mississippi families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling. We’ll also cover microschooling and mix-and-match learning!
Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Mississippi at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
- Traditional Public Schools
- Public Charter Schools
- Public Magnet Schools
- Private Schools
- Online Schools
Mississippi Traditional Public Schools
Traditional public schools are operated by school districts, free to attend, open to all students, and funded by federal, state, and local government. Did you know that Mississippi spends an average of $10,170 per public school student each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
In Mississippi, the state allows each district to set its own open enrollment policies; the state only requires districts to offer open enrollment if parents live 30 miles away from their child’s assigned school. “Open enrollment” refers to whether parents can send their children to any public school, regardless of where it is located. Mississippi parents should check with their local school district if they wish to participate in open enrollment.
If you do have access to open enrollment, this can expand the list of public schools you can choose from, helping you find the best match for your family. When an agreement between school districts is made allowing a student to participate in open enrollment, it must include transportation provisions. Keep in mind that, in some cases in Mississippi, receiving districts charge tuition.
Would you like to see a real-world example of the transfer process? Check out Jackson Public Schools’ guidelines for applying for an in-district or district-to-district transfer.
Find out more about public schools in your state at the Mississippi Department of Education. You can also learn more about Mississippi open enrollment at “Public Schools Without Boundaries: A 50-State Ranking.”
Mississippi Charter Schools
Depending on where you live in Mississippi, you might have access to a public charter school. Like traditional public schools, charter schools are public, free, and typically have no requirements for entry. What distinguishes charter schools is that they enjoy extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods and 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, whether that be providing a language immersion program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. For example, the state’s newest charter school, Instant Impact Global Prep, focuses on STEM learning and community engagement.
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.
Mississippi Magnet Schools
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. Mississippi has several magnet schools scattered throughout the state, and these might be a good option if your kid learns best by focusing in on a subject he or she is passionate about. Some of the districts with magnet schools or programs include the Cleveland School District, the Natchez-Adams School District, the Laurel School District, and Jackson Public Schools. Columbus Municipal School District even has magnet choices that allow kids to focus on aerospace, international studies, and healthy living.
Mississippi Private Schools
Private schools offer a unique learning environment that may be smaller in size, pass on a specific religious tradition, or provide a different curriculum than is available in your district school. One of the largest private schools in the state is Magnolia Heights School in Senatobia, which offers a Christian environment and enrolls more than 700 students. Private schools can be defined as nonpublic schools that charge tuition.
In Mississippi, there are several state-run scholarship programs helping families with special needs gain access to private schools. The Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Scholarship is designed specifically to help children with dyslexia access private schools with dyslexic therapy programs. Meanwhile, the Nate Rogers Scholarship program provides vouchers to certain private schools to students with speech-language therapy needs. Meanwhile, the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs program allows students with an IEP to receive some of their public education funding in a savings account, which can be used for approved education expenses, like private school tuition.
Mississippi Online Learning
Whether your child wants to accelerate his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, don’t overlook virtual school as an option. Mississippi does not offer a free, full-time online school. However, in some cases, students may be able to enroll in part-time classes through their school district and Mississippi Online Course Approval (MOCA). For example, students can take some MOCA-approved online classes through Booneville School District Online.
As another example of a district online program available to students, Gulfport Virtual Academy provides a K-10 virtual learning option. Students living outside of but near the Gulfport School District may be able to transfer in, but students will need to occasionally attend school in person for state assessments and labs.
Also, paid full-time online school options, such as George Washington University Online High School, The Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy, are available to students in every state, including Mississippi. Additionally, both Mississippi State University and University of Mississippi allow highschoolers to take online courses for a fee.
To read more about online learning in Mississippi, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.
Mississippi parents can also choose homeschooling; this is a great option if you are looking for a hands-on, highly-customizable approach to your child’s education. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home. Parents can homeschool in all 50 states.
In Mississippi, notice of your intent to homeschool is required by September 15 or immediately upon your decision to homeschool if starting mid-year. The state does not require homeschooling families to teach specific subjects and does not require standardized testing for homeschoolers. In general, children who are homeschooled may face roadblocks if they want to participate in public school sports or activities in Mississippi. However, you can always look for other sports leagues and co-ops!
In the case that you decide to return to public school, contact your local school to find out what their placement guidelines are as they each have their own process.
To learn more, check out a great roundup of resources about homeschooling specific to Mississippi.
Mississippi Microschools and Mix-and-Match Learning
Today, many Mississippi families are mixing and matching school options to come up with new ways to personalize education. Microschools are one of these ways. A microschool refers to students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Microschools can take a variety of shapes and legal forms, from homeschoolers coming together at an enrichment center to a private school committed to small classrooms. What microschools share in common is a commitment to small-group learning and close-knit relationships, along with an emphasis on children as individual learners.
For example, here are some real examples of microschools and related resources in your state:
Micah’s Mission School offers a hybrid learning and resource environment for at-risk students. Students can participate in online independent learning, pre-work training, project-based learning, dyslexia therapy, and more.
Ivy Greene Academy is an Acton Academy-affiliated microschool focusing on each student taking a “hero’s journey.”
Harper Learning Academy is a non-profit program in Byram serving students with learning differences.
Embark, an initiative of Empower Mississippi, is a new schools accelerator that works with school founders to help them launch new innovative options, like microschools.
Remember, microschooling is more a mentality than a specific legal distinction in most cases. Often, a family participates in a microschool while legally homeschooling, or being enrolled in a private or online school.
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