How 5 states are approaching virtual School Choice Week

Celebrations and school fairs are being planned across the U.S. in unique ways.

Educators, schools and students across the country are gearing up for National School Choice Week, a “celebration of educational opportunity” that will be highlighted by the lighting of landmarks in cities across the United States.

The initiative, which kicks off on Sunday, will look far different from previous years as the majority of events will take place virtually and throughout homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, that hasn’t tempered the ingenuity of those who are planning to host online contests and offer programming, scavenger hunts and even drive-in movie options in all 50 states.

School Choice Week, which stated in 2011, aims to provide information to families on choosing the best K-12 education options for students, from public schools to public charters, magnets, private schools and other options, including online academies. The Week gives schools a chance to showcase their offerings through school fairs and open houses.

In all, more than 30,000 celebrations have been planned to coincide with the nationwide event. More than a dozen governors have enacted proclamations acknowledging the event.

“School choice allows families to rise above challenging circumstances and find learning environments that inspire and work for them,” said Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week.

Here are some of the unique events being planned in districts across the country:

Alabama: The state’s schools are hosting more than 670 virtual or home-based events, including a photo contest on school choice where students and educators can win Amazon gift cards.

Kentucky: Aside from educational meetings, families throughout the state will be treated to a “Netflix viewing party of the movie “Miss Virginia,” which chronicles the life of school choice advocate and author Virginia Walden Ford.

Florida: In Tampa, non-profit Celebrate Youth is holding a drive-thru scavenger hunt with Disney characters, a local art competition, food vendors and a chance to win big prizes, including a $500 gift card. The first 300 families to drive in will receive a bag that include school choice information. Celebrate Youth is also hosting a drive-in movie, “Inside Out”, for families during the week.

“We believe we have something to offer for all ages in a fun, healthy and safe way supporting our community, our schools and our students and bringing awareness to the importance of parents having the opportunity to choose the best school for their children,” said Wendy Howard of Celebrate Youth.

Nebraska: Students and educators are celebrating School Choice Week with a video contest dubbed “Why I Love My School”. Some 171 virtual events are being planned throughout the Cornhusker State.

Texas: In Austin, schools are planning a bilingual school fair that gives parents a chance to meet one-on-one with educators through Zoom. They can also tour virtual booths and meet with school reps to discuss the individual campuses and their values. They also can get free guidance when filling out applications and win raffle prizes.

“This year, more than ever before, Austin-area families need to know about the PreK-12 school options that are in our community. We hope that everyone will stop by – virtually – and find a school that works for their kids,” said Families Empowered Chief Programs Officer Ann Starr.

The Dallas ISD is hosting High School Choice Awareness Week, where students can take a “Find Your Path” assessment and a “Would You Rather” survey to determine their future paths.

“From our P-TECHs where high school students can get an associate degree and Career Institutes where they get the training for a good-wage job out of high school – to our outstanding magnet schools with specialized programs and unique choice schools – Dallas ISD has a best-fit high school for every student,” said Angie Gaylord, deputy chief of the Office of Transformation and Innovation. “We are excited to work with our eighth graders to identify which of our incredible high schools is perfect for them.”

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