Types of Schools in Detroit

Group of teachers and children playing


Within the 142.9 square miles of Detroit exist a number of educational options for families to choose from. Some schools are a part of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the traditional public school district, governed by the Detroit School Board and led by Superintendent Vitti.

There are also a variety of charter public schools, each of which is independently governed by a board and operated locally. These schools are open to any Michigan resident. Finally, there are a few private schools in Detroit, most of which are affiliated with a religious institution.

Explore the types of schools in Detroit and get a better sense of how they’re different.

Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD)

Schools operated by DPSCD are open and free to all children who reside in Detroit. Starting in kindergarten, every child who lives in the district is guaranteed a spot in a DPSCD school. DPSCD schools are directly overseen by an appointed superintendent and an elected school board. Board meetings must follow the public meetings laws.

Transportation and other services may be provided based on the address where the child resides, the child’s educational needs, and any additional needs the child may have regarding transportation and/or student support.

To apply, most DPSCD schools require families to complete an enrollment form at the school of their choice. Some schools may require a specialty application or examination, which is noted in this guide on the school profiles. Click here to review documents that you’ll likely need to enroll in the school of your choice.

Specialized DPSCD Programs

Beginning Fall 2020, DPSCD has created a number of new programs and consolidated some of its schools to better meet student needs. 

Application Schools

DPSCD has  “application schools,” which include elementary, middle and high schools, that require an application to enroll. Five high schools are “exam schools,” which require special testing. For current deadlines, go to: https://www.detroitk12.org/examschools

Exceptional Student Education Campuses

The district also offers full-service special education service campuses at the Charles R. Drew Transition Center, Diann Banks Williamson Education Center, Jerry L. White Center, Keidan Special Education Center, Moses Field Center, and Turning Point Academy. To learn more, click here.

Adult Education

The district provides free classes for adults, including high school completion, GED programs, Adult Basic Education and Pre-GED, English as a Second Language and job readiness training. Click here to read about Opportunities for Parents

Montessori Schools

Inspired by Dr. Maria Montessori, these schools employ methodologies and tactics that focus on the individual child and foster independence in learning. More information about the DPSCD Montessori Schools can be found at https://www.detroitk12.org/montessori

Public Charter Schools

Public charter schools are also free and open to any resident of the state of Michigan, regardless of where a student lives. Students from anywhere in the state may apply to any Detroit charter school. Many charter schools serve students K-12 while others focus on particular grades (K-5, K-8, 9-12.)

Some charter schools also have a specialized focus and curriculum, designed to meet student needs and interests. Examples include language immersion programs, Afro-centric curriculum, technology and math and science. Charter schools are overseen by a school board and operated individually. They operate under a charter that is granted by their authorizer, typically a university, community college or school district. DPSCD is the authorizer for 4 charter schools.

Charters operate under “open enrollment requirements” that mandate that any child who applies must be enrolled unless a seat is not available. Each charter school board approves the schools open enrollment period and process.  

This information is publicly available and parents can ask to know when the open enrollment period ends. If at the end of the open enrollment period the demand for a school is higher than availability, a public lottery is held to assign open seats. Again, this information is approved in advance by each charter school board and the information is available to parents. After the open enrollment period, students are admitted on a rolling basis and according to availability.

Charters are not permitted to have any requirements (other than living in Michigan) for admission so there are no magnet or exam charter schools.
Each school has its own application process.

Enrollment requirements can be found by reviewing school profile pages, by visiting the school’s website, and/or by contacting the school. In most cases, each charter school will have an application for parents to fill out that asks for information about the student, the school may request school and immunization records and in some cases, offer a shadow/visit day as an option. 

Charters open via charter contracts issued by a select group of authorizers that are responsible for oversight of charter schools in Michigan. Most authorizers are Universities and Community Colleges. Charters must follow the same laws as traditional public schools for serving families experiencing homelessness/transition, special education students, and youth returning from incarceration.

All charter school teachers must be certified and students are held to the same accountability standards. A school board oversees each school and holds public meetings according to law.

Private Schools

Private schools are non-public schools that charge tuition for attendance. Some offer school-based financial aid and/or accept scholarships or outside forms of financial aid.

Some private schools have religious affiliations and offer curriculum that includes religious teachings.

Each school has its own application process.

Private Schools are NOT included in this guide.

Virtual Schools

These web-based schools typically provide all textbooks and instructional materials, and students are assigned to certified teachers. A growing number are available in Michigan. Some are classified as charters (such as Michigan Virtual Charter Academy and Highpoint Virtual Academy of Michigan) while others are operated by a local school district. Tuition-based options are available.

Each school has its own application process.

Virtual Schools are NOT included in this guide.