Education and Schools in San Diego

The San Diego County Office of Education is in charge of education and schools in San Diego County, providing services to 42 school districts. These districts provide educational programmes for more than 750 public elementary, middle and high schools, while there are around 300 privately run schools in the city. Public schools are free to attend but private and international schools usually charge hefty fees.

Public schools in San Diego

Under state law, children are eligible to attend the public school that serves their area unless it is severely overcrowded. Should this happen, the district assigns the student to another school. Parents are also able to apply for their children to attend a school outside of their area through the School Choice Program, which enrols students to the city’s best performing public schools through a lottery.

Generally speaking, an expat's best options for education in San Jose are in the most affluent areas. This does, however, vary between individual schools and the best way to be sure is to see the school and its staff in person.

Non-English-speaking expats have the option of sending their child to one of the city's dual-language immersion public schools. Most are Spanish, but there are also schools offering German, Mandarin and French.

Magnet schools

Magnet schools are government-funded schools that offer a specialised focus on one or several subjects, which is a good option for expats with children who show promise in a specific area of their education. There is a wide range of options from schools with a strong emphasis on maths and science, to those specialising in the performance arts. Placement is via lottery.

Charter schools

Charter schools operate on a performance-based contract with the government. In most cases, this means that charter schools can generally be counted on to offer a good standard of education. However, they have a greater degree of freedom in teaching styles and curricula than regular public schools. Some charter schools offer specialised curricula or subscribe to alternative teaching philosophies. Again, attendance is determined by a lottery.

Private schools in San Diego

Expat parents have access to a wealth of private schools in San Diego, with different approaches to education. While most are co-educational, some are single-sex schools. Many of San Diego's private schools offer education through a religious lens, most commonly Christian. Others favour alternative educational approaches like Montessori.

Each school has its own admission requirements which may include application fees, tests and personal interviews. While there are no geographical restrictions on attending a private school, this also means that waiting lists are often long and there is strong competition for places at the best schools.

The academic freedom and facilities provided by these institutions does, however, come at a price and private schools are more costly than their public and charter counterparts.

International schools in San Diego

There are very few private schools in San Diego that are specifically aimed at the expat community. French families, however, will be glad to know that there are a few schools in the city offering the French curriculum in their home language.

Despite the rarity of San Diego international schools in the traditional sense of teaching a foreign country's curriculum, there are a number of public and private schools that offer the globally recognised International Baccalaureate.

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