Public Boarding School

The words “public” and “boarding school” are usually found in opposition to each other, on the assumption that boarding schools are private schools. But this is not always the case. Read this article to learn more about public boarding schools.

The History of Public Boarding Schools

The public boarding school is not a new idea. Residential schools with public financing have been used in the nineteenth century to educate Civil War orphans.

Public boarding schools also arose at about the same time to educate students with disabilities:

• Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB) was established in 1885 and graduated its first class in 1892. Today, it educates students who are deaf/hard-of-hearing and/or blind/low-vision, from preschool through grade 12.

In Vermont, towns have avoided the expense of building, staffing, and maintaining public high schools by “buying space” for public school  students in existing private schools, or independent schools as they are known in Vermont, which function as boarding schools for out-of-state and international students. This system has been operating since, would you believe, 1869. The schools that operate in this way are Burr and Burton Academy, Lyndon Institute, St. Johnsbury Academy, and Thetford Academy.

Other public boarding schools arose in the late twentieth century to educate gifted and talented students:

 North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) claims to be the first “public, residential high school with a specialized curriculum in science and math” in the United States. It opened in 1980 and accepts applications from sophomores to complete their junior and senior year at the school.

• Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA) was established in 1982 as an alternative for either the final two or three years of high school. The “Arts” portion of the school curriculum focuses on the humanities and the fine arts and performing arts.

 Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) calls itself a “public residential preparatory institution for academically talented students” in grades 10 through 12, and first enrolled students in 1986.

Maine School of Science and Mathematics (MSSM) is a magnet high school that offers “advanced curriculum and science and mathematics.” It opened in 1995.

Other schools have arisen to teach other populations, with a recent focus on disadvantaged students:

• SEED School (Schools for Educational Evolution and Development) are two college preparatory public boarding schools in urban areas aimed at serving disadvantaged youth. Currently there are a) a charter school in Washington, D.C. that opened in 1998 and b) a public school in Maryland, which opened in 2008 and houses students from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon each week. There are plans for further expansion.

Plans are underway in Cincinnati, Ohio, working through the Farmer Family Foundation, to build an Ohio SEED School, hopefully for the 2012–2013 school year. In Tennessee in early November, 2010, the Knoxville Charter Academy’s application to become a charter school was turned down, but it was encouraged to reapply. It hopes to be a residential school for students in grade 7 through 12 with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.