May 4, 2016 - From the Blog
By Live Baltimore's Resident Outreach Manager, Kim Wiggins
Navigating the school system can be one of the most confusing tasks for families in Baltimore City.
School "choice" sometimes is just too much—charter, traditional, private, zoned, out of zone. What is a Baltimore City parent to do? Never fear, Way to Stay is here!
Let’s focus on charter schools in this post. The best kept secret about charter schools are that they are public schools.
You may have heard your only option for a great school in Baltimore City is to send your child to a charter school. (Not true, but I digress.) Many parents are told this and this year alone there were three to five thousand families put on a waitlist to attend one or more charter schools.
What exactly is a waitlist?
This can get a little complicated. While charters are public schools, enrollment for most is not based on where you live. To be accepted into a charter school you have to enter a lottery. There is a deadline for the lottery. (But you can submit an application afterwards and still be put on a waitlist.) While the charter lottery is not as bad as Powerball odds, there are many factors that influence your chances. The lottery is for the open spots in the school. That number of spots vary by grade level. There may be more spots available in Kindergarten than 3rd grade, but there may not be. Spot availability can also vary by sibling preference. If an older brother or sister is already in the charter, there may be a special lottery entering only siblings. Some charters do have extra allocation based on where you live. They may stipulate that a percentage of the students should be from the surrounding area. Yet for others, any student that lives in that zone can attend, just like a traditional school. (The lottery would then be held only for students that don’t live in the zone if all the openings weren’t filled by neighborhood children. These schools are called conversion charters.) So back to the original question, if you don’t get one of the open spots at the time of the lottery, you are put on the “waitlist”.
Does anyone ever get off the waitlist?
YES!!! There is no limit to the number of charter schools you can apply to, so often times parents apply to many. As parents commit to a school, there is lots of movement on the waitlist. Waitlists also run by grade level. You might be #22 on the general list, but as soon as the next spot opens in the 3rd grade, you are #1 in the school.
Wow that is a lot of information!
Fortunately it is not true that the only option for a great education in Baltimore City is a charter school. Explore your other options on our website and look for future blog posts on more schooling options in the city. You can also check for availability at charters by contacting the Maryland Alliance of Public Charter Schools.