Types of Schools in Boston


As a family in Boston, you have over 200 school options available to you. This Resource Guide explains how and when to apply for schools for each type of school available to your family in Boston. You can apply to as many different types of schools as you like, but there is no single way to apply to every school; each type of school has different processes. 

Boston Public Schools (BPS)

Also known as "district schools" or "BPS," Boston Public Schools is the free public school district for the city of Boston. There are more than 125 BPS schools in Boston. BPS schools serve students in grades K0 to K2 (ages 3 to 5 years old) through 12th grade and beyond. 

Commonwealth Charter Schools 

Also known simply as “charter schools,” there are 16 Commonwealth charter school campuses in Boston. These schools are free and open to the public. Interested students can apply to any or all 16 charter schools at the same time via the Boston Public Charter School application. Placement into these charter schools is determined by lottery. 

Private Religious-Affiliated Schools

Also known as parochial schools, Boston has a number of private religious-affiliated schools, including a large number of Catholic schools. While private religious-affiliated schools cost money to attend, many of these schools offer financial aid and/or scholarships to students. Some Catholic schools are free or offer subsidized, income-dependent tuition. 

Private Independent Schools

Also known simply as “private schools,” these schools cost money to attend. Many of these schools offer financial aid or scholarships to students. Each private school requires its own separate application. 

Other School Options Beyond Boston

In addition to the five types of schools above, there are additional school options available to your family both within and beyond the city limits of Boston.


METCO is a free program where Boston students travel to public schools across more than 30 cities and towns outside of the city of Boston. Beginning in 2019, acceptance into the METCO program will be determined by lottery. Families interested in being considered for the METCO program must complete the METCO application form online

Career/Vocational Technical Education Schools & Programs

Also collectively called “voc-tech” schools and programs for short, career/vocational schools and programs provide students with an education in a specific skill or trade for careers in such fields as agriculture, cosmetology, electric, plumbing, etc. These programs may be at standalone schools or campuses, or may be included as a separate educational track at existing public school districts within Massachusetts. 

Massachusetts Commonwealth Charter Schools

In addition to the 16 Commonwealth charter schools within the city of Boston, Boston residents are welcome to enter the lottery for any of the more than 80 Commonwealth charter schools across the state. These schools are free and open to the public. Commonwealth charter schools outside of the Boston Public Charter Schools have their own enrollment applications and deadlines. There is often preference based on neighborhood, but all Commonwealth charter schools have a lottery for which anyone can sign up

Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science 

Also known as “Mass Academy,” this school is located in Worcester, MA and is affiliated with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Mass Academy is a free, co-educational, public school of excellence that enrolls approximately 100 academically accelerated 11th and 12th grade students from across Massachusetts. Students take rigorous classes at WPI to prepare them for college academics before they graduate high school.

  • For more information about its program and how to apply, please visit the Mass Academy website.

Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School (GCVS)

Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School—also known simply as GCVS—is a free, virtual public school that offers K-12 education completely online. GCVS provides students of all abilities with the flexibility of an online curriculum that lets them learn from home while meeting all of the education standards of Massachusetts, under the guidance of state-certified teachers who are trained and have experience teaching in virtual school environments. 

Inter-District School Choice

Some school districts allow children outside their boundaries to attend their schools through the inter-district school choice program. Parents are required to apply to each school district separately, and transfers are not guaranteed. Children who attend schools outside their home districts through the inter-district school choice program do not get free transportation.

Currently 170 school districts across the state participate in the program. To find out which school districts are accepting students from outside their district, see School and District Profiles on the Department of Education's web site.

  • For more information about Inter-District Choice, visit the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Choosing a School Guide

  • For a full list of participating school districts, visit the School Finder's Inter-District School Choice Guide 

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