Deciding where your child attends school might be one of the biggest decisions you make as a parent. If you live in Indianapolis, 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. “Education is not a one-size-fits-all — what works for one family may not work for another,” says Kelly Simone, executive director for the tuition-free, full-time online schools Indiana Connections Academy and Indiana Connections Career Academy. These are virtual school options available to students statewide. “We are fortunate enough to live in Indianapolis, where families have numerous education options to consider. Pros and cons for the various school choices will vary based on the student and the family.” Read on for a brief overview of the different types of educational options available to you in Indianapolis.
Public and Private Schools
Run by school districts, public schools are free to attend, open to everyone, and are funded by tax dollars. In Indiana, another perk of being in the public school system is open enrollment. Indianapolis Public Schools require schools to allow transfers — however, some schools may charge tuition for transfer students. Public school curricula are set by government mandates.
On the other hand, Indiana’s 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, Indiana’s Choice Scholarship provides vouchers for private school tuition and parents in Indiana can also opt for tax deductions for private school expenses.
Charter and Magnet Schools
Like public schools, charter schools are free and open to all. But like private schools, charter schools have more freedom to change their curriculum, based on the school’s charter overseen by the Indiana Charter School Board or other governing body. For example, a charter school might emphasize project-based learning as opposed to focusing only on testing to gauge student knowledge.
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. Indianapolis 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.
Finally, there are virtual schools. “As an online education expert, I can tell you that one of the pros many of our families appreciate of virtual school is that students can work from the comfort of their homes,” says Simone.
Virtual students have direct access to their licensed teachers for one-on-one support to help master essential skills and standards. “With virtual school, parents are also more involved daily, working alongside the student’s teacher to ensure their child is on track and engaged with lessons,” she says. Additionally, many virtual schools are public schools and, like their traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts, are offered at no cost to families with curriculum and programming aligned to state standards.
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,” says Simone. She suggests starting 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. Each school will have advantages and disadvantages, so decide which key components are essential to your child’s success.