Students Working

Charter and Other Operator-Run Schools

City Schools has three distinct types of operator-run schools – charter schools, contract schools, and transformation schools. Find information below about operator-run schools and how to apply. 

Operator-Run Schools

Charter Schools:

Charter schools are the most common of the operator-run schools. These are public schools that each have a charter, or performance contract, detailing its program, goals, and methods of assessment. These schools are run by outside entities with increased autonomy in many areas of decision-making. Charter schools are also governed by Maryland Charter Law. Additionally, there are two types of charter schools – wholly new charter schools, which are schools that were created and approved via a Board approval process, and neighborhood (or conversion) charter schools, which were existing traditional schools that converted to become charters schools through a Board approval process and meet the requirements of Maryland Public Charter Law. Neighborhood charters continue to serve a neighborhood zone.

City Schools currently has 31 charter schools within its portfolio. Contact the school for up-to-date information about availability by grade level.

Contract Schools:

Contract schools are citywide public schools operated under contracts with outside entities. Their budgets follow the charter school formula, and they are generally granted the same autonomies as charters and like charters are governed by a performance contract, detailing its program, goals, and methods of assessment. Contract schools may have unique enrollment processes detailed in their contracts. There are currently two contract schools operating in City Schools’ portfolio:

  • Bard Early College High School Baltimore – (special application process - families can apply by listing this school on the choice Application; however, there are additional steps involving an interview, seminar, and writing sample that determines placement and enrollment at this school)

    • (seats available)

  • Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School – (school-based lottery)

Transformation Schools:

Transformation schools are secondary public schools open to all students from across the city and operated by independent nonprofit entities. City Schools currently has two schools of this type in operation, and each has a specific theme and a unique curriculum that focuses on college, career, or alternative programming. The district has two of these schools:

  • The REACH! Partnership School – (choice process)

  • Baltimore Design School – (special application process – please visit the school’s website for details. It includes both an application and an interest survey for students interested in middle school; for high school students apply directly via an application and must be successful in a Portfolio Review that determines placement and entry to the high school)

    • (seats available)

Applying to Operator-Run Schools

While some of City Schools’ operator-run schools participate in the district’s choice process (ConneXions: A Community Based Arts School and The REACH! Partnership School), others admit students based on an interview process (Bard High School Early College Baltimore), a portfolio process (Baltimore Design School for its high school program), or an interest survey (Baltimore Design School for its middle school program). Learn more about the choice process or schools with special applications.

However, the majority of operator-run schools which are mostly charter schools, admit students based on a public school-based lottery. Families interested in seats at these schools must submit an application, and if the school has more applicants than they can accept, the school will hold a public lottery to randomly identify students, after accounting for legally allowable preferences, to offer seats and generate the school’s wait list.

Families must submit a student application for entry to wholly-new charter schools. This can be through a school-based lottery process or through the choice process. For neighborhood charter schools, students who live in the neighborhood zone do not need to apply via a school-based lottery and can enroll in the same way as one would enroll in a traditional neighborhood school. Students who live out of the zone who wish to attend these schools must apply via a school-based lottery process. 

School-Based Lottery Rules and Timeline

  • February 2, 2024: Deadline for accepting applications from families

  • February 12-16, 2024: Charter lottery window

  • February 28, 2024: Schools notify families of lottery results

  • April 8, 2024: Deadline for families to confirm or decline acceptance

All charter and contract schools must broadly publicize the location and timing of their lotteries, and all schools share the same deadline. Lotteries must be held in public and the results must be shared publicly. All applications submitted by the February 2, 2024 deadline become part of the publicly drawn lottery, after accounting for preferences, in random order until capacity is reached, and the remainder of the applications are placed on the wait list.

All charter schools grant preferences for siblings, children of original founders, and children of staff members that are City residents. There are some schools who have Board-approved enrollment preferences for other categories such as geographic preferences, or for students who are in certain categories, including students:

  1. with limited English proficiency, 

  2. eligible for free or reduced-price meals; 

  3. with disabilities; 

  4. classified as Homeless, as defined under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act; or

  5. residing in a geographic attendance area with a median income that is equal to or less than the median income of the county for the public charter school.

No later than February 28, 2024, family notification letters are sent to any family that applied to the school(s), and families have until April 8, 2024 to accept or decline a seat offer. Any applications received post-enrollment period are added to the wait list in the order they are received. As spaces become available at the school, they are offered to the waitlisted applicants according to their order of placement on the wait list.

Non-city residents may apply to charter and contract schools; however, these students may be enrolled only after all city residents have been offered a seat. If accepted, these families will be charged tuition by the Office of Enrollment, Choice, and Transfers.