School choice in Delaware allows families to select a school other than their feeder school. These might include another traditional school within or outside their district or a magnet or charter school. (Note that because of enrollment limits, not all schools are open to choice.) All public schools, including charter schools, are free.
The School Choice period begins Nov. 1 for all Delaware public school districts. Choice applications are due to the district of the school of choice by the second Wednesday in January for grades 1 to 12 and up to the first day of school for kindergarten. The guidelines for assignment to choice schools vary by district. Check with both your home school district and the choice school district for information.
Application procedures and deadlines for magnet and charter schools differ by school and district. In most cases, the school district does not provide transportation from the student’s home to a choice school.
Feeder schools, also known as attendance zone schools, are those to which a child is assigned based on his or her residential address. They offer a traditional curriculum, but specific offerings may vary by school. Parents also can choose to send their child to another school within their district or even outside their district, if the school is open to choice. Families might choose a non-feeder school because of reputation, teachers or location (for example, if it were near a parent’s workplace).
Magnet schools have a curricular focus beyond the traditionally offered courses. They might, for example, offer dual-language instruction or an emphasis on the arts.
Charter schools are independent public schools chartered either by the district or by the state Department of Education. Some charter schools are similar to magnet schools in that they have a particular curricular focus. Others might emphasize parental involvement or target a specific population. Because the principal is the ultimate authority at a charter school (as opposed to the district superintendent), these schools have more flexibility with curriculum and teaching methods than traditional public schools.
Private schools operate independently of the public school system. As such, the school has more flexibility with its curriculum and can choose which students it admits. The price tag for these tuition-charging schools can vary widely. Financial aid is often available. Application procedures and deadlines vary.
Religious schools are a subcategory of private schools. They include both parochial schools affiliated with a church as well as independent, religiously oriented schools. At these schools, there is often an emphasis on religion and students typically take religion classes in addition to the 3Rs. Depending on the school, class sizes may be smaller than in public schools. Transportation is sometimes offered at a cost.
Private, independent schools often have smaller class sizes than public schools and some parochial schools. Mission, emphasis and educational approach vary with the school, as do facilities. Transportation is often the parents’ responsibility.
Some families choose home schooling, either in a single-family setting or in a multi-family cooperative. While home-schoolers can create their own curriculum, the Delaware Department of Education provides the state’s content standards and recommended curriculum on its Web site. In addition to cooperating with other home-schooling families, those who choose to home school can take advantage of programs for home-schoolers offered by museums and community organizations.