Navigating the World of School – Fox Valley School Lingo Explained

Fox Valley Wisconsin Schools

There are so many school options in our area! One of the best ways to find out about local schools is to ask other parents. Schools will also let you come in for tours and open houses. As a parent, you know your child the best. Hopefully, this article can help you navigate the world of school and make the best choice for your child.

*Please note that the descriptions of choices in this article apply to Wisconsin and, in some cases, specifically the Fox Valley region of Wisconsin. Please check with sources in your state if you don’t live in Wisconsin.

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Public School

In this area, most public school systems operate on “neighborhood school” plans. Which school your child attends depends on your address. If you are new to your neighborhood, check out your local school. Stop in. Call. Ask for a tour. If you don’t know which school’s attendance area you live in, call your school district’s central office to find out. You can also get information on local schools on each district’s website. Also, ask your neighbors with kids. It’s likely their kids go to the neighborhood school, and they can tell you about it.

Open Enrollment

In Wisconsin, we also have Open Enrollment. That means that you can send your kids to other neighborhood schools in your district or you can even choose a school in another district in the state. If you would like to send your child to another neighborhood school in your district, check with the district office about procedures and policies. Open enrollment generally begins in February and ends in April but there is an alternative application for changes that take place outside of that time frame. If you are interested in enrolling your child in another district, you can read all about that here. You should also note that if you open enroll, you will most likely have to provide your own transportation to and from that school (no bussing).

Charter Schools or Choice Schools

In Wisconsin, charter schools are free, public schools. Each charter school is supported by a school district. The fancy definition of a charter school can be found here. In short, they are schools created by governing (charter) boards (usually made up of district teachers and parents) who want to create a school with a different curriculum or method of teaching. The group lays out how their school will work and then the district supports them. Since they are public schools, there is no cost (tuition) for students to attend. Students can open enroll (see above) in any charter school in their district or in other districts.

In the Fox Valley, many districts have charter schools. Appleton, by far, has the most and longest-running charter schools of the districts in this area. Each of these charter schools has a different philosophy, curriculum, and method of instruction, and appeals to different types of learners. There are charter schools for all grade levels, 4K-12, in the Fox Valley. Websites for each school are located on the district’s homepage. Below is an overview by grade level.

  • Alliance Charter School, NJSD (K-6) – Montessori curriculum following state standards and district guidelines
  • ALPs, OASD (4-8) – a student-centered, collaborative school for advanced learners
  • Appleton Bilingual School, AASD (K-6)– teaches students in both English and Spanish
  • Appleton Public Montessori, AASD (4K-6) – students learn using the Montessori Method in multiage classrooms
  • Appleton Technical Academy – holds classes in conjunction with Fox Valley Tech
  • Classical Charter School, AASD (K-8) – the school uses Core Knowledge curriculum as its foundation
  • Denmark Community School, DSD (6-12) – student-centered, project-based learning working to build independence and collaboration
  • Flex Academy, LCASD (K-8) – provides a flexible learning environment and focuses on mastery, collaboration, engagement, and reflection
  • Fox Cities Leadership Academy, AASD (9-12) –  high school students attend FCLA in the afternoon and their traditional high school in the morning. While at FCLA, students participate in five-week workshops and seminars. 
  • Fox River Academy, AASD (4K-8) – an environmental school featuring hands-on learning in multiage classrooms
  • John Dewey Academy of Learning, GBAPS (6-12) – project-based learning focused on collaboration, shared leadership, and community building
  • Kaleidoscope Academy, AASD (6-8) – curriculum delivered through inquiry-based activities and projects
  • Little Chute Career Pathways LCASD (9-12) – career exploration and twenty-first-century skills
  • New Directions Learning Community, KASD (4K-4) – individualized instruction utilizing Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop curriculum/methodology developed by Columbia University
  • Northeast WI Sch of Innovation GBAPS (9-12) – personalized education partnered with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College for a strong vocational education
  • Renaissance School for the Arts, AASD (9-12) – Honors and AP level ELA and Social Studies and instruction in dance, visual arts, television/film, music, creative writing, and theater.
  • St. Croix Virtual Academy
  • Stephen Foster Elementary Charter, AASD (4K-6) – provides a whole child approach to learning focusing on the individual child, career development, and service-learning
  • Tesla Engineering Charter School, AASD (9-12) – integrates a broad exposure to engineering and technology with a balanced high school experience
  • Valley New School, AASD (7-12) – project-based learning in an open environment facilitated by advisors partnering to design, support, and evaluate project work.

Enrollment for charter schools begins in January/February. Students can apply to any charter that serves their grade level for the coming school year. If there are more students seeking enrollment than there are spots available, then students are selected by lottery. Each school works this a bit differently, so check with the school for the most accurate information. In most cases, parents need to provide transportation to and from school (no bussing).

Charter schools provide great alternatives for students who may have an interest in certain topics or learn in different ways. They also offer a great opportunity for parent involvement and input via the school’s charter board.

Other area districts offer charter schools as well. You can find out about them on your district’s website.

Magnet Schools

Magnet Schools have specialized programs and curricula. Some magnet schools are geared toward math and science while others might have a focus on visual or performing arts. The idea is to draw a diverse student population that shares a common interest to build community and encourage achievement. 

Magnet schools in our area: 

  • Odyssey/Magellan Charter School (3-8) – a school featuring rigorous coursework for gifted students 

Virtual Schools

Some districts across the state offer online schools for students in various grades. Students can learn from home (or anywhere) with these programs. These schools are also charter schools run by Wisconsin school districts. They follow open enrollment procedures to accept students (see above). Appleton has two virtual charters.

Appleton Virtual Schools:

  • Appleton e-school (9-12) – virtual (online) school, can be full or part time
  • Wisconsin Connections Academy – a virtual (online) school

Parochial School

These are schools that are sponsored by religious organizations. Parents pay tuition for their children to attend these schools. Some schools in the Fox Valley area also qualify for the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. Under that program, families who meet certain requirements can use vouchers from the state to help pay for tuition at these schools. See the website for those details.

There are many parochial schools in our area including:

Check with your church if you are interested in Parochial School for your child. They can help you find a good match.

Private School

These schools are not sponsored by a religious organization and require tuition.


In WI, parents may also choose to educate their own children. There are several homeschooling groups and cooperatives in the area to supplement at-home learning and provide opportunities for socialization. Homeschool families must file an enrollment form by October 15th of the school year. Kindergarten is not compulsory in Wisconsin and so you need not file until the school year when your child is six. The best way to investigate homeschooling is to talk to other homeschool parents. Visit Wisconsin Homeschooling Parents Association for information about laws and requirements for homeschool families.

Homeschool Enrichment Programs:

  • Natural Learners Community, Kaukauna – ILP support, access to the learning center for socialization, freedom to explore, project support, workshops

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