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South Salt Lake Journal

Finding the right fit to educate a child

May 18, 2020 12:30PM ● By Bill Hardesty

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

A truism in today’s world is that one size does not fit all. We don’t all drive the same car. We don’t all live in houses. We all don’t have the same job. Learning is the same way. One way does not fit all children. 

“Every child is unique, and all children learn differently. Some kids might succeed at the neighborhood public school, while other children might fit in better at a charter, magnet, online, private or home learning environment. That’s why school choice is so important,” The National School Choice Week website reads.


By providing school choice, parents and students can find the program and environment that works best for them. 

There are six types of schooling parents and students can choose from in Utah:

Traditional public school: A common choice among Utah families. Traditional public schools are operated by school districts, open to all students and paid by taxpayers. 

The state has an unrestricted open enrollment for public schools. This means your child does not have to go to the neighborhood school. You can choose which public school they attend. However, you will need to provide your own transportation. An advantage of the policy is that you can visit several public schools and choose the one that works for your child.

Utah charter schools: Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that have extra freedom to be innovative with curriculum and learning methods. There are more than 100 charter schools in Utah. 

Each school has a charter that explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves. For example, a French immersion program or curriculum based on certain values or support for certain athletic pursuits.

For example, the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts that is co-located at Highland High School or the American Preparatory Academy and The School for New Americans located in West Valley City. 

Due to enrollment limits, some charter schools have a lottery process for acceptance.

Utah magnet schools: A magnet school is a free public school that has a narrow learning track such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) or advance placement (AP) studies.

All teaching is influenced by the focus of the school.

For example, the Armstrong Academy focuses on STEM or gifted and talented programs located in a variety of Granite School District schools.

Utah private schools: These nonpublic schools charge tuition and offer a unique learning environment. Typically, the classes are smaller. The school might have a specific religious tradition or provide a different curriculum than offered in a public school.

Utah online learning: Online learning allows a flexible learning environment that may meet the needs of families. A child could use online learning to accelerate their learning or if they need a quieter environment for learning.

As many parents can testify because of the current situation, online learning requires some level of personal motivation. All students, grades K-12, can enroll full- or part-time. Enrollment is free.

Examples are: the Utah Online School, the Utah Connections Academy and the Utah Virtual Academy. All are open to Utah students. In addition, My Teach High partners with public school to offer a full-time personalized distance program for students ages 5-18.

Utah homeschooling: This choice is available to any student in Utah. It is the process of parents managing the education of their children at home. There are many resources online to help parents teach their children. There are also many variations within this category.

It might be a parent teaching their child in their home. It might be where families join in a co-op or a commonwealth. It might be a hybrid where the student learns at home, but attends public/private school for certain subjects. 

A parent’s viewpoint

“I think all of these choices are great choices,” said Emily Clawson, who has been involved in homeschooling for 21 years. “I think having those choices are one of the most important things we can protect here in our state, in our country… I will be the first person to stand and fight for someone else’s right to choose something completely different than my choice. Because we know our children, we love our children in a way no one else can. So, it is going to be most important to us they have the environment that is right for them and that is going to look different for every kid.” 

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