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Rising Kindergartner: School Choices

Understanding Your School Options:

Unlike when you were preparing to start Kindergarten and there weren’t all of these options – a parent now has so many decisions to make: Public vs. Private, Traditional vs. Year Round, Magnet vs Charter Schools… the choices can be overwhelming and quite confusing!  But making decisions regarding rising Kindergarten’s education is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. It’s important to understand the differences so you’ll be prepared to make the best choice for your child and your family.



Traditional vs. Year Round

Years ago going to school year round would have been unheard of.  However, this is a now an attractive option to families for various reasons. The children are still meeting the same mandatory 180 day instructional requirement but in a schedule that is broken up throughout a twelve month period instead of nine solid months.  Because there are four inter-sessions that give children a two to three week break it allows families to vacation at different times throughout the year that aren’t necessarily peak holiday and vacation times. Some teachers claim that children stay more intellectually focused since they get a short break every nine weeks – enough to recharge them for the next challenge. Furthermore, advocates of this schedule claim that children avoid the “Summer Slide” forgetting much of what they’ve learned by being away from the rigors of going to school for three months.  However, for many the hiccup in one’s schedule every couple of months or so can cause more challenges within the family and with the potential of having children on two different schedules (for example one in elementary on a year round schedule and one in middle on a traditional schedule) it is often not a convenient option.


What is a Magnet School?

A magnet school is part of the public school system but they have something special and unique to offer the student body.  There are magnet schools at the elementary, middle, and high school level.  They receive additional funding and while they maintain the same core curriculum goals they have a focused theme that allows them to stand out and attract students with particular interests. For example, they might have a Spanish-immersion program incorporated throughout the school or stand out as a performing arts school.  Because it is considered a public school it is free but admission is based on a lottery system.  Supporters of the magnet school state that because the student body has chosen to attend the school there is a greater sense of overall commitment from the families.

Durham County’s Elementary MAGNET SCHOOL options are:


Special Focus


Burton IB Elementary International Baccalaureate PYP


Club Boulevard Elementary Humanities


George Watts Elementary Year Round Schedule


Holt Language Academy Elem Year Round, Language Academy


Morehead Elementary Montessori School


Pearsontown Elementary Year Round Schedule


RN Harris Integrated Arts & Core Knowledge Elementary


Integrated Arts/Core Knowledge


Sandy Ridge Elementary Visual and Performing Arts


Easley Elementary


Year Round Schedule


What is a Charter School?

A charter school is also part of the public school system but unlike magnet schools they are funded primarily through tax dollars.   They have a different organizational model then traditional public schools as they are governed by a board of parents and community members.  Because of this structure they have some flexibility in their operations and the freedom to be more innovative in their educational approach.  In exchange for this benefit, however, a charter school is held to a higher level of accountability for their overall performance. There are charter schools in Durham County that go from Kindergarten through High School.  Admission is via a lottery system though just as with the magnet schools it is non-discriminatory and there are no tuition costs.


Durham County’s Elementary CHARTER SCHOOL options are:


Grade Span


Carter Community


Kindergarten through 8th grade
Global Scholars Academy


Kindergarten through 5th grade
Healthy Start Academy


Kindergarten through 8th grade
Kestrel Heights


Kindergarten through 12th grade
Maureen Joy Charter


Kindergarten through 8th grade
Reaching All Minds Academy


Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Research Triangle Charter Academy


Kindergarten through 8th grade
The Central Park School for Children


Kindergarten through 5th grade
The Institute for the Development of Young Leaders


Kindergarten through 5th grade
Voyager Academy


Kindergarten through 12th grade


Private Schools

Of course there are numerous private schools in the area with excellent reputations.  The tuition costs of these schools vary greatly and because they are private they have an admissions process that differs from the public school system.  Many go through high school while others offer only lower grades.  They generally have a healthier teacher:student ratio thus their overall educational scores are impressive to families.  However, the rules and regulations along with the cost is not attractive to many families.

kindergarten options

In the end, parents have to decide what’s best for his/her child as well as the family as a whole.  All schools offer tours during their enrollment period and the administrators are more than happy to answer questions regarding their programs.  It may be you choose one route and then realize you need to change your course and go a different one.  It’s a whole new chapter once your child starts Kindergarten and while change is always stressful – it’s also exciting and needed.  It’ll be a great experience no matter what!