Public Zoned Schools
Public education in Baltimore City works differently than in other counties in Maryland.
If you’re new to Baltimore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with specifics of the district.
First, and most importantly, elementary schools are the only schools with “zones” in Baltimore City. In other words, the only time there is a connection between where you live and where your child is expected to attend school is during the elementary school years.
To find your elementary public school zone, scroll to our interactive map page and zoom in to your location.
Once students reach sixth grade, they may participate in the citywide choice process to select and match with a middle and high school.
Students in Baltimore City are not typically bused to school. Rather, elementary school students walk to schools, within a reasonable distance of their homes, or receive transportation from parents or guardians. Middle and high school students take the MTA bus to school or, similarly, are transported by adults.
Public schools in Baltimore City are broken into two major categories: Traditional and Charter. Families are guaranteed access to traditional public schools but must apply and be selected by lottery to attend public charter schools. Both types of public schools are free to attend.
Nearly all elementary schools begin serving students in pre-K or kindergarten and serve them through the end of 5th grade. Elementary/middle schools continue serving students through eighth grade.
Baltimore City students enroll in school based on their birthdays.
- To enroll in pre-K, students must turn 4 by September 1 of the year they plan to attend school. (In other words, students begin pre-K having already turned 4.)
- To enroll in kindergarten, students must turn 5 by September 1 of the year they plan to attend school. (In other words, students begin kindergarten having already turned 5.)
- Early enrollment is available in special circumstances only. For information on eligibility, visit the Baltimore City Public Schools pre-K program page.
Although all students in Baltimore City have a zoned elementary school, many students attend school “out-of-zone,” meaning at an elementary school zone other than their own. Out-of-zone attendance is regulated by the district and available only as space allows. To learn more about the process, explore the Baltimore City Public Schools elementary school transfer request page.
The elementary school years are important in Baltimore City, as students are building their composite score for middle school admission. Ensure your student is set up for success in middle school by understanding their composite score.
For advice and guidance on pre-k, elementary school transfers, and more, reach out to Live Baltimore’s School Navigator.
Middle & High School
Nearly all middle schools serve students from sixth though eighth grades. Nearly all high schools serve students from ninth through 12th grades.
Middle and high school students in Baltimore City participate in the citywide choice process. Check out the BCPS School Choice Program for more information.
Middle schools are not zoned by home address like elementary schools in Baltimore City. Additionally, some Baltimore City middle school programs have selective admissions, based on academic performance (composite score) or audition. Before applying to a middle school program, ensure your student is likely to be accepted by reviewing programs’ entrance criteria. The middle school years are important in Baltimore City, as students are building their composite scores for high school admission. Ensure your student is set up for success in high school by understanding their composite score.
Like middle schools, high schools are selected through Baltimore City’s choice process—not assigned by school zone or home address. Some Baltimore City high schools have selective admissions, based on academic performance (composite score) or audition. Before applying to a high school, ensure your student is likely to be accepted by reviewing schools’ entrance criteria.
Have more questions about schools in Baltimore City?
Our school navigator can help! Email or call Kim Wiggins at 410-637-3750 x115.
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