In line with the US standard, the schooling system in Tampa is split between three levels:
- Elementary school – Kindergarten to Grade 5
- Middle school – Grade 6 to Grade 8
- High school – Grade 9 to 12
Anyone planning a move to the Cigar City with children will need to factor in schooling options when making decisions on where they’d like to live. The Hillsborough County Schools District is the body that overseas schooling in the Tampa Bay area and, with over six hundred different schooling options available, making a decision on what is best for one’s children isn’t always straightforward.
Factors to consider when picking a school include the type of school, the standard of teaching, the cost of tuition fees, extra-curricular activities and proximity.
Public schools in Tampa
The Hillsborough County School District (HCSD) is the authority that oversees public schools in Tampa. Tampa residents can have their children attend a public school at little to no cost. That said, public school admission does depend somewhat on catchment areas which is something worth bearing in mind when deciding where to live.
As is the case in most US cities, the standard of public schools varies. Some public schools are brilliant and provide a standard of education that falls in line with those at private schools. On the other hand, there are also some underperforming schools that suffer from underfunding and staff shortages. In general, though, the standard of public school education in Tampa is pretty decent.
Tampa also boasts a number of good charter schools. These are a sub-set of public schools that are overseen by external actors. Although they do have more freedom in terms of teaching methodology and admissions, these schools remain accountable to the Hillsborough Country Schools District.
Each of these institutions will have a charter which details the school's operations, programme, goals and methods of assessment. Some serve particular populations or students that are struggling in a traditional learning environment whereas others follow a particular instructional theme. Charter schools are generally more flexible when it comes to catchment areas.
Like charter schools, magnet schools in Florida are state-funded in part, but because they do receive some funding from external sources, these schools have more autonomy over their curricula. Magnets benefit from allowing students to pursue a more vocational path in line with their individual strengths.
Magnet schools tend to focus on a particular area such as sports, performing arts, foreign languages or the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).
Private schools in Tampa
There are a fair few private schools in Tampa, many of which have a religious affiliation, mostly with a branch of the Christian faith. Generally, private schools offer a higher standard of teaching and better facilities than most public schools. They also offer more advanced placement and honours programmes for academically-gifted students as well as sports, music and arts programmes for children that show an aptitude in those areas.
Naturally, the downside of private education is the cost. Parents who choose to send their kids to a private school in Tampa should be prepared to budget for tuition fees. On top of the fees themselves, they’ll need to factor in other expenses such as uniforms, textbooks, extra-curricular pursuits and field trips.
International schools in Tampa
There are a handful of international schools in Tampa, most of which follow the globally-recognised International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. IB schools are a great option for expats or internationally-minded families that might see themselves moving overseas again in the near future.
It is also worth bearing in mind that there are a number of magnet and charter schools in Tampa that offer the IB programme. Although these schools do tend to be oversubscribed, securing a place at one of them will allow families to have their child study for the IB at a fraction of the cost they’d pay at a private institution.
For foreigners that are intent on having their child continue studying the curriculum of their home country, it is worth exploring options in wider Florida as many of these schools do offer boarding options for their students.
Special needs education in Tampa
The education system in Tampa is well set up to provide for students with learning difficulties. There are multiple federal and Florida state laws in place to ensure that children with disabilities have fair access to quality education at no cost.
Both public and private schools in Tampa have special programmes in place to support students with learning difficulties. Following an assessment, if a student’s disability is said to be too severe for them to be accommodated in the mainstream education system, there are also several special facilities that are able to offer those with special needs a variety of programmes tailored to meet their specific requirements.
Private tutors in Tampa
As academic excellence becomes increasingly competitive, students are often expected to do work outside school in order to excel and stand out from the crowd. Tutors are a great source of support for students who want that extra edge in preparation for university admissions exams or simply to keep pace with the curriculum. Thankfully, there are plenty of private tutors at hand in Tampa.
We’d recommend parents begin by enquiring at the child’s school to find out about recommended tutors in the local area. Failing that, families will find a number of established tutoring agencies that can assist. These companies often have various packages ranging from subject-specific programmes to one-to-one classes and group sessions.
►Learn more about Tampa's property market by reading out Accommodation in Tampa page
Are you an expat living in Tampa?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Tampa. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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