The ABCs of School Options

Deciding where your child attends school might be one of the biggest decisions you make as a parent. If you live in Southwest Ohio, you can choose between several different types of educational options, from traditional public or private schools to charter, magnet and virtual schools. What works for your student depends on their individual needs. Read on for some of the pros and cons of each educational option. 

Public and Private Schools 

Run by school districts, public schools are free to attend, open to everyone, and are funded by tax dollars. Public school curricula are set by government mandates. “In Southwest Ohio, the public school system operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards and superintendents,” says Aldi Agaj, CEO and founder at Alter Learning. For public schools, Ohio offers some open enrollment, allowing students to transfer to schools outside their zip code. But it is up to the school district to decide if students can transfer or pay fees to be able to transfer successfully. Most often, parents are responsible for the transportation to the new public school.  

Private schools are also an option. Private schools charge tuition but have more freedom in curriculum. Some private schools offer a faith-based environment, for example, while others provide more elevated learning goals than what you might find in the public schools. While private schools are pricey, Ohio’s Educational Choice Scholarship Program allows every child in the state to apply for funding. Ohio also offers several other funding programs, like the Autism Scholarship Program and Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program. The state also has a scholarship program made available by tax-credit donations. Families enrolled in specific private schools are qualified for a tax credit. 

“For a thorough discussion about the unique features of these diverse school types in both areas, it would be beneficial to connect with local educational authorities or organizations that specialize in educational advocacy and can provide firsthand insights,” Agaj says. 

Charter and Magnet Schools 

Like public schools, charter schools are free and open to all. In Ohio, charter schools are sometimes called “Community Schools.” But like private schools, charter schools have more freedom to change their curriculum, based on the school’s charter overseen by a governing body. For example, a charter school might emphasize project-based learning as opposed to focusing only on testing to gauge student knowledge. Because charter schools tend to be popular school options, character schools usually offer lottery systems to help decide admittance. 

Taking curriculum innovation and flexibility a step further, magnet schools are free public schools that let students concentrate on specific themes, like the performing arts. Ohio has several magnet schools to choose from, so if your child prospers in an environment dedicated to a specific topic, this educational option might be the best for you. 

Virtual Schools 

Finally, there are virtual or online schools. Here, children can work from home, accelerate their learning, or work at their own pace. Families can choose from many different free and full-time or part-time online schools in Ohio. However, some of the schools have enrollment caps, so check the complete list of Ohio’s e-schools at the Ohio Department of Education for this information and more. In the state of Ohio, districts that offer online learning have to provide their students with a computer and internet access. 

Ask Questions 

At the end of the day, determining what school option fits your child takes a bit of research. Every child is unique, so it’s important for parents to consider their child’s needs and their family’s priorities when choosing a school. Start the process by defining your family’s priorities and considering your child’s individual, educational needs. Ask yourself:  

  • Does your child need an environment that is structured?  
  • Does your child have any special learning needs?  
  • Does your family have any specific scheduling needs?  
  • As a parent, how involved do you want to be in your child’s education?  

Next, determine which school factors are most important to you. For example, ask yourself:  

  • What is the school’s student-teacher ratio?  
  • Does the school have a particular focus or theme for the curriculum?  
  • Does the school’s population reflect that of the greater community around you?  

Research schools by reviewing their websites or requesting more information directly from the school and asking friends and neighbors about their school recommendations. “In Southwest Ohio, reaching out to the Ohio Department of Education or local school boards could be a starting point to find experts willing to discuss the nuances of the various educational options,” Agaj says. 

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