Choice schools, charter schools, magnet schools, zoned schools, fine arts schools, academies, private schools… my head starts spinning when I start talking about schools in Polk County.

There are numerous options when it comes to educational opportunities for our children in Lakeland and across Polk County. However, the process of researching those options and figuring out HOW and WHEN to apply for specific schools can be a daunting task! We’ve tried to simplify things and help you figure out how to navigate the application process.

There are many things to consider when deciding where you will send your child for school. We are in no way implying that there is anything wrong with attending the school where you are zoned. In fact, like me, I’m sure most of you reading this went to your neighborhood school! However, today there are other options available and we want to help you determine what is best for your child.

Every school listed here is a Polk County Public School, and is FREE for grades K-12. We do have a list of private schools in our Education Directory.

While the start of the 2019-2020 school year is still months and months away, Polk Schools Open Enrollment is when you must apply for anything other than your assigned zoned school.

If you are moving to Lakeland or considering a relocation to our area, do your school zone homework before choosing where you will live. We hear from parents on a regular basis who didn’t realize that transferring from one school to another is not done regularly here in Polk County.

Open Enrollment Dates for Polk County Schools for the 2020-21 school year

Open Enrollment Begins Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Open Enrollment Ends Friday, December 13, 2019

If you don’t need any additional information about schools, click here to apply in the Parent Portal
Otherwise keep reading for our breakdown of school options

Open Enrollment is the period when you can apply for Career Academies, Magnet/Choice, IB/AICE.

Polk County Public Schools open enrollment period for the 2019-2020 school year will be open November 5, 2019 for just over 5 weeks. This is a much shorter period than in previous years so be sure you don’t put off your application.  The application can only be found on the Parent Portal.

Note that Fine Arts schools, Charter Schools (including The Schools of McKeel Academy), Private Schools, and Montessori Schools have their own application periods – check directly with those schools for more information on their application process.


School Showcase
presented by Polk County Schools

The School Showcase is a great opportunity to research all of these options in person! At the School Showcase you’ll find over 400 booths spotlighting the innovative careers, schools, and programs offered across Polk County. There will also be demonstrations highlighting the unique activities found in Polk County Public Schools. The School Showcase is open Thursday, November 7 and Friday, November 8 from 8am – 2pm, and Saturday, November 9 from 10am-2pm. All days are open to parents, Nov. 7-8 will also include student field trips. Click here to learn more.

Polk County School Showcase WE3 Expo 2019

All Grades – Find Your Zoned School

This is the elementary, middle, or high school where you are assigned based on your address.

To find out the schools where you are zoned, CLICK HERE and start with the StreetFinder. Put in a portion of your street name (I suggest removing the Drive/Lane/Circle/Blvd/Street/etc at the end). Once you select your street and city from the results, it will automatically switch over to ZONE FINDER where you can put in your house number and find a list of all zoned schools, including your Headstart Program, Elementary, Middle, High, Magnet Area, and High School IB Area.

Click here to read the requirements for enrolling your child in a Polk County Public School. If you are enrolling a child in kindergarten for the 2020-2021 school year, the annual Kindergarten Registration will be held in the month of April, exact dates are TBD. You can also check with your zoned school for kindergarten registration information in the spring.

Elementary & Middle – Magnet/Choice Schools

Magnet/Choice schools are Polk County Public Schools that provide students with special learning themes, such as science, technology, math or the arts, in addition to the standard required curriculum of general education. Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, and combined Elementary/Middle Schools are listed below.

These schools require an application during the Open Enrollment period from November 5 – December 13, 2019. You may only apply for the magnet or choice schools listed for your zoned area.

Schools listed below are in Greater Lakeland Magnet Zone A:

(Eligible to apply if you are zoned for Lakeland High School, George Jenkins High School, Lake Gibson High School, Kathleen High School, Tenoroc High School*)

Elementary Schools (K-5)

Lincoln Avenue Academy (STEM & IB Program) (K – 5th grade)
Website / 1330 North Lincoln Avenue, Lakeland, Florida 33805
Direct feeder into Lawton Chiles Middle Academy for grades 6-8.

Winston Academy of Engineering (STEM) (K – 5th grade)
Website / 3415 Swindell Rd, Lakeland, FL 33810
Direct feeder into Lawton Chiles Middle Academy and Crystal Academy of Science and Engineering for grades 6-8.

Combee Academy of Design & Engineering (STEM) (K-5th grade)
Website / 2805 Morgan Combee Road, Lakeland, FL 33801

Elementary & Middle School (K-8)

Blake Academy (STEM) (K – 8th grade)
Website / 510 Hartsell Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33815

Rochelle School of the Arts (Fine Arts) (K – 8th grade)
Website / 1501 Martin L King Jr. Ave Lakeland, FL 33805

Middle School (6-8)

Crystal Academy of Science & Engineering (STEM) (6th – 8th)
Website / 2410 Crystal Lake Drive Lakeland, FL 33801

Lawton Chiles Middle Academy (International Baccalaureate IB) (6th – 8th)
Website / 400 N Florida Avenue Lakeland, FL 33801


Zone B Magnet Schools

(Eligible to apply if you are zoned for Auburndale High School, Lake Region High School, Tenoroc High School*, Winter Haven High School)


Zone C Magnet & Choice Schools

(Eligible to apply if you are zoned for Haines City High School, Ridge Community High School)


Zone D Magnet & Choice Schools

(Eligible to apply if you are zoned for Bartow High School, Lake Wales High School, Fort Meade Middle/Senior High School, Frostproof Middle/Senior High School, Mulberry High School)


CLICK HERE to read more about the Magnet schools in your Zone. The same application information applies for all Magnet/Choice schools in Polk County.

*Tenoroc High School serves students in both Lakeland and Winter Haven. Please check your Magnet Zone on the district’s ZoneFinder to determine which Magnet Zone your child is eligible to apply for. 

NOTE ON VPK PROGRAMS: While some Magnet schools have a VPK program, attendance for preschool does not provide any preference for kindergarten enrollment, every application is entered into the lottery system.

  • Begins November 5, 2019
  • Ends at December 13, 2019

Editors Note: Magnet schools in Polk County are very popular and only a few spaces per grade are open each year, with the exception of kindergarten when all seats are open. 

Important information to know before applying to a Magnet or Choice School: (Read the full list on the application page)

  • You may only apply for the magnet or choice schools listed for your zoned area (for example: if you live in Lakeland, you can’t apply to attend Bartow Elementary Academy or Union Academy in Bartow). When you get to page 2 of the application, it will list all eligible schools based on the address you enter. Take note – there are some streets with a Lakeland address that are assigned to Zone D (Bartow), there is not a clear dividing line but they seem to be streets at the east end of Clubhouse Road and 540A in South Lakeland. (Use the zoned school finder to find out if you are in Magnet Zone A, B, C or D)
  • You CAN apply to multiple magnet or choice schools within your zone.
  • If you are completing applications for more than one of your children, there is no guarantee that all siblings will be able to attend the magnet or choice school. If a younger sibling is admitted, they WILL NOT put the older child at the top of the waiting list. Preference IS given to younger siblings applying for kindergarten where an older sibling is already enrolled.
  • Your application will be kept on file for the entire academic year to which you are applying. Open seats will be filled by a random selection from that year’s applicant pool.
  • If you are not selected for an open seat, YOU MUST apply again next year. The waiting list does not carry over from year to year.

Elementary & Middle – Fine Arts Schools

All of the Fine Arts Schools are also Magnet or Choice schools (and are included above). This means they provide students with fine arts education in addition to the standard required curriculum of general education.

These schools require an application during the Open Enrollment period from November 5 – December 13, 2019. You may only apply for the magnet or choice schools listed for your zoned area.

Greater Lakeland Magnet Zone A: (Eligible to apply if you are zoned for Lakeland High School, George Jenkins High School, Lake Gibson High School, Kathleen High School, Tenoroc High School*)

Rochelle School of the Arts (K-8) – Lakeland

Zone B (Eligible to apply if you are zoned for Auburndale High School, Lake Region High School, Tenoroc High School*, Winter Haven High School)

Jewett School of the Arts (K-8) – Winter Haven

Zone C (Eligible to apply if you are zoned for Haines City High School, Ridge Community High School)

Davenport School of the Arts (PreK-8) – Davenport

  • Begins November 5, 2019
  • Ends at December 13, 2019

Editors Note: Magnet schools in Polk County are very popular and only a few spaces per grade are open each year, with the exception of kindergarten when all seats are open. 

Important information to know before applying to a Magnet or Choice School: (Read the full list on the application page)

  • You may only apply for the magnet or choice schools listed for your zoned area (for example: if you live in Lakeland, you can’t apply to attend Davenport School of the Arts). When you get to page 2 of the application, it will list all eligible schools based on the address you enter. Take note – there are some streets with a Lakeland address that are assigned to Zone D (Bartow), there is not a clear dividing line but they seem to be streets at the east end of Clubhouse Road and 540A in South Lakeland. (Use the zoned school finder to find out if you are in Magnet Zone A, B, C or D)
  • You CAN apply to multiple magnet or choice schools within your zone.
  • If you are completing applications for more than one of your children, there is no guarantee that all siblings will be able to attend the magnet or choice school. If a younger sibling is admitted, they WILL NOT put the older child at the top of the waiting list. Preference IS given to younger siblings applying for kindergarten where an older sibling is already enrolled.
  • Your application will be kept on file for the entire academic year to which you are applying. Open seats will be filled by a random selection from that year’s applicant pool.
  • If you are not selected for an open seat, YOU MUST apply again next year. The waiting list does not carry over from year to year.

Middle School – Pre-Academies

Polk Career Pre-Academies are small, personalized learning communities within a middle school. Each pre-academy is focused on a specific area of study where the student should have a genuine interest. Students enter the academy through a voluntary process; they must apply and be accepted with parental knowledge and support.

You can apply for an academy that is NOT located at your zoned school, however priority is given in the order listed under the Important Info tab.

High School – Academies

Polk Career Academies are small, personalized learning communities within a Polk County High School. Each academy is focused on a specific area of study where the student should have a genuine interest. Students enter the academy through a voluntary process; they must apply and be accepted with parental knowledge and support.

A career academy includes the following essential elements:

  • A small learning community supported by a local advisory committee Save
  • A career theme that includes a college-prep curriculum and lead to industry certification
  • Partnerships with employers, the community, and higher education

You can apply for an academy that is NOT located at your zoned school, however priority is given in the order listed under the Important Info tab.

High School – Fine Arts

Founded in 1989, Harrison School for the Arts is Polk County’s only Fine Arts High School.

Harrison offers an arts-education experience in a state-of-the-art facility – newly renovated in 2009. Students can audition and enroll in any one of twelve different artistic disciplines: Chorus, Creative Writing, Dance, Guitar, Jazz, Motion Picture Arts, Musical Theatre, Piano, Orchestra,  Theatre, Technical Theatre, and Visual Arts. Our facilities, coupled with our incredibly gifted faculty, ensure that our current students and future Polk County generations have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential in the arts through premier arts instruction.

Harrison students achieve their general academia through Lakeland Senior High School, online courses, dual enrollment, and Harrison’s Summer Academy.

High School – International Baccalaureate (IB) 

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program is a rigorous high school academic program designed to provide students with the skills and knowledge to be successful in advanced college placement options through high school college credit courses. IB high schools use a specific rigorous curriculum that aims to develop and challenge inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who are motivated to succeed.

IB schools strive to develop students who will build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.

(There are also IB programs located at elementary and middle schools, but the regular magnet application process applies. At the elementary and middle school levels, students will participate in interactive academic courses with technology-based science labs and dynamic self-directed projects and classroom activities.)

International Baccalaureate at Bartow High School
Website / 1270 S Broadway Ave, Bartow, 33830

Haines City High School International Baccalaureate
Website / 2800 Hornet Drive, Haines City, 33844

For High School IB Programs, submit an application in the Parent Portal during Open Enrollment – November 5 – December 13, 2019.

For Elementary and Middle Schools with an IB program, apply through the Magnet/Choice application process.

High School – Cambridge AICE

The Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) is an accelerated method of academic study offered solely through the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), a division of the University of Cambridge. AICE provides a flexible, broad-based curriculum that is offered at schools and colleges in over 161 countries, and is recognized by the Florida State Department of Education as a rigorous curriculum.

Cambridge AICE at Winter Haven High School
Website / 600 6th Street SE, Winter Haven, FL, 33880

In order to attend Cambridge at Winter Haven High School, a student must apply and qualify for one of the limited seats during the open enrollment period during his/her eighth-grade year. For the upcoming school year, interested students must apply by completing two steps:

Step 1: Register online at TestRegistration.polk-fl.net to take a placement test. (Last test date is November 16)

Step 2: Submit an online application during Open Enrollment – November 5 – December 13, 2020.

Click here to learn more about AICE and see the application information.

High School – Collegiate Charter Schools

Charter collegiate high schools provide academic and technical education for serious high school students who desire to undertake college-level study. Students are offered a program of high school and college courses to meet the requirements for a standard Florida high school diploma with the opportunity to take dual-enrolled courses at Polk State College.

Polk Pre-Collegiate Academy (9-10th grades)
5316 Berkley Road, Auburndale, 33823
Website
Polk Pre-Collegiate Academy (PPCA) is a unique 9th and 10th grade Academy of Applied Discovery program where instructors expose learners to innovative experiences and guide them through relevant application and evaluation of those experiences. PPCA students are goal-oriented with aspirations of earning highly-qualified admission status to one of the Polk State College collegiate high schools.

Parent Information Meetings held in January. Interested applicants must attend one of the two meetings. Open Enrollment is March 4-8, 2019Click here for application information

Polk State College Collegiate High (11-12th grades)
3425 Winter Lake Rd. LAC Bldg., Lakeland, 33803
Website
Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School is a charter high school housed within Polk State College and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The purpose of the school is to provide academic and technical education for serious high school junior and senior students who desire to undertake college-level study. The two-year curriculum enables students to complete a high school diploma and many of the requirements for an associate degree, simultaneously, in either academic transfer or technical education options.

Students should apply during their Sophomore or Junior year of high school. The lottery application period is TBD.  Informational meetings held in January & February. Click here for application information.

Chain of Lakes Collegiate High (11-12th grades)
999 Avenue H N.E., Winter Haven, 33881
Website
Polk State College Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School is a public charter school that provides highly motivated 11th and 12th grade students from throughout Polk County with a distinctive experience, blending traditional high school with collegiate coursework. The two-year curriculum enables students to complete a high school diploma and many of the requirements for an associate degree, simultaneously, in either academic transfer or technical education options.

Students should apply during their Sophomore or Junior year of high school. The lottery application period is TBD.  Informational meetings held in February. Click here for application information.

Each school has its own application process. Check their websites for details.

Charter – The Schools of McKeel Academy
PreK4 – 12th Grade

The Schools of McKeel Academy are local charter schools that incorporate challenging traditional academics with a focus on technology. Charter schools are independent, state funded public schools. Charter Schools are able to be more innovative, while still being held accountable for improved student achievement. McKeel Schools are tuition-free public schools with certified teachers governed by an independent board of trustees. We comply with the school-average size mandate and the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

McKeel Academy Central (PreK – 6th)
Website / 411 North Florida Avenue, Lakeland, 33801
McKeel Academy Central focuses on a challenging curriculum emphasizing the core foundations of reading, writing and math plus hands-on science and career exploration. Technology is strongly integrated into their program across subject areas. Students have access to electronic devices in their classrooms plus weekly classes in the MAC computer lab.

McKeel Academy Central has a daily physical education program for all students, and a music program that includes weekly music classes and chorus. With a special emphasis on cultural awareness and character education, McKeel Academy Central engages students in community service learning projects that give back to the community.


South McKeel Academy (PreK – 7th)
Website / 2222 Edgewood Drive South, Lakeland, 33815

South McKeel Academy K-5 elementary program incorporates challenging traditional academics with a focus on technology. The 6-7 middle school program has an integrated curriculum with an emphasis on using technology in the classroom. The physical education program provides all students with daily classes. The music program includes weekly classes for K-6 students. In 7th grade, a choice of electives provides students with two classes in Guitar, Criminology, Spanish, TV Production, Art, Engineering, Robotics, Mad Science, Intro to Business/Technology or Aviation.

Career exploration and cultural awareness are included in their programs as well as character education. Giving back to the community is an important cultural component of South McKeel Academy, and students participate in a variety of service learning activities in support of local organizations.


McKeel Academy of Technology (7th – 12th)
Website / 1810 W Parker St, Lakeland, FL 33815

McKeel Academy of Technology provide a rigorous academic program for grades 7-12 with AP and Honors classes and a strong focus on technology with the 1:1 iPad Initiative launched at the start of the 2013-14 school year. Graduation requirements are set higher with 4 years of math and science, 4 years of social studies, and 4 years of language arts, exceeding the state requirements. The academic program requires 12th graders to participate in a senior internship in their chosen career field, and all middle and high school students to participate in job shadowing twice a year. High school students may choose to participate in the Dual-Enrollment Program with Polk State College providing classes on campus.

Career Academies at McKeel Academy of Technology include the Polk County Schools Career Academy “iMedia” specializing in digital graphics and web design with industry certification from Adobe. Other career clusters focus on computer programming, robotics and health science.

Click here to read more about each of the McKeel schools.

Applications for the 2019-2020 school year will be accepted from December 3 – 14, 2018.  Applications will only be accepted online during that time.

ALL interested students now must reapply to The Schools of McKeel Academy every year. This means that if you were already on the waiting list, you MUST reapply this year (and in future years). All applicants will be entered into a lottery for any available openings before or during the school year, and the wait list will not carry over from year to year. To read more about the Admissions Policies and enrollment preferences, visit the McKeel Enrollment website.

CLICK HERE for more information and an application (the application will not be available until December 3)

Editor’s Note: The Schools of McKeel Academy are very popular and only a few spaces per grade are open each year, with the exception of kindergarten when all seats are open. 

Preschool Enrollment – Both McKeel Central and South McKeel have a VPK program for students who will have turned 4 by September 1 of the upcoming school year. Most preschool students at McKeel attend a full-day program and parents are required to pay the difference in tuition. Note that PreK students do receive enrollment priority for kindergarten, as outlined in the Enrollment PreferencesApplications for the McKeel Preschools will be accepted online during McKeel Open Enrollment.

Charter – Montessori Schools
PreK – 8th Grade

The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Dr. Montessori’s Method has been time tested, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world. Components necessary for a program to be considered authentically Montessori include multiage groupings that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and guided choice of work activity.

Magnolia Montessori Academy (PreK3 – 6th)
Website /1540 New Jersey Rd, Lakeland, 33803
Magnolia Montessori Academy is a free public charter school that opened its doors in August 2013 and was started by a group of like-minded parents who had a wish to provide more Montessori education in a neighborhood setting to more students in Polk County.  We are looking for families to partner with who share our principles and attitudes about education. Children demonstrating the following qualities would be the most likely to succeed in our authentic Montessori environment: self-respect, respect for the environment, respect for others, respect for personal and academic undertakings, personal responsibility, self-motivation, curiosity, and passion for learning.

Admission: Applications for 2018-19 are being accepted November 1, 2018 – January 18, 2019Click here for application information.

Magnolia Montessori includes a PreK3 and PreK4 program, and these students receive preference when applying for Kindergarten. However, the wait list does not carry over from year to year so all applicants have an equal chance to be selected for any open seats.  This means that if you have applied for Magnolia Montessori in the past, YOU MUST REAPPLY EACH YEAR!


Lakeland Montessori Schools (PreK3 – 8th)
Lakeland Montessori Schooolhouse –  1124 N. Lake Parker Avenue, Lakeland, 3380
Lakeland Montessori Middle School at Polk Museum of Art – 800 East Palmetto St., Lakeland, 3380
Website
Serving Students Age Three through Eighth Grade as a Tuition free (K-8) Public Charter Montessori Program. It is our mission to facilitate the well-rounded, advanced and challenging authentic Montessori curriculum that instills a sense of wonder and awareness about the universe and the child’s place within that universe. Lakeland Montessori Schoolhouse also has a tuition based PreK for ages 3-4.

Admission: Preschool Applications are accepted beginning any time after a child’s birth. We encourage families to apply early as there are very few openings after age 3. Visit the website to learn more about the application process and relevant dates.

Editor’s Note: Lakeland Montessori Schoolhouse includes a PreK3 and PreK4 (VPK), and your best chance to be admitted is to apply at age 3. Students that attend Lakeland Montessori for PreK receive automatic entrance to Kindergarten and are not subject to the waiting list for Kindergarten. The current waiting list for K-8 is more than 1,500 students and does carry over each year, so new applicants are placed at the end of the waiting list.


Cypress Junction Montessori (PreK3 – 7th)
Website / 220 5th Street SW, Winter Haven, 33880
Cypress Junction Montessori is a quality preschool and free public K-8 charter school in Winter Haven that follows the Montessori Method.  CJM serves students in K–8th grade under the charter as a free public charter school that offers an authentic Montessori education. CJM is also home to a Montessori Preschool for ages 3-4. Preschool offers full & half day options, and accepts the ELC’s School Readiness Funding, & offers scholarships through our Early Learning Scholarship Fund. Cypress Junction Montessori accepts applications from any student eligible to attend a Polk County public school. Our primary focus is to serve families in the Greater Winter Haven area.

AdmissionVisit the website to see application dates and other information.


Note that Polk County is home to other Montessori Schools that are considered private schools with tuition and not free charter schools. These are listed in our Directory.

Each school has their own admission process. Visit the school website for more details.

Charter Schools in Polk County

Charter schools are independent, state funded public schools. They are able to be more innovative, while still being held accountable for improved student achievement. They are tuition-free public schools with certified teachers governed by an independent board of trustees. They must comply with the school-average size mandate and the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Charter schools are able to accept applications from anywhere in Polk County, however transportation is not guaranteed and some schools do have a specific residential zone.

Berkley Charter School (PreK-5)
Website / 5240 Berkley Road, Auburndale, 33823

Berkley Charter School is committed to Learning For All, Whatever It Takes! We provide an optimal learning environment that emphasizes research-based effective practices, time on task, and an integrated relevant curriculum. Berkley is a Kagan Cooperative Learning School. Feeds directly into Berkley Accelerated Middle School.


Berkley Accelerated Middle School (6-8)
Website / 5316 Berkley Road, Auburndale, 33823

The goal of BAMS is to have all students studying Algebra in grade 8 and reading on at least an 8th grade reading level thus allowing all students to follow whatever path they choose in higher education, college and career planning. Our motto is: “Accelerated Learning for All; Whatever it takes.”


Discovery Academy of Lake Alfred (6-8)
Website / 1000 N. Buena Vista Dr., Lake Alfred, 33850

We are a 6-8 public charter school that engages students in an enriched innovative curriculum using various teaching strategies with an emphasis on technology.


Discovery High School (9-12)
Website / 640 Evenhouse Road, Lake Alfred, 33850

Discovery High School (DHS) is a charter expansion supported by its parent organization, Discovery Academy of Lake Alfred (DALA). Parents asked us for a high school so their children do not need to leave the Discovery system, and this sentiment was our motivation for opening our high school.


Hartridge Academy (K-5)
Website / 1400 Us Highway 92, Winter Haven, 33881

Hartridge Academy is an elementary school (K-5) with traditional academic subjects, ESE inclusion, single gender class opportunities, gifted program, grade combination classes, and accelerated curriculum classes.


Ridgeview Global Studies Academy (K-8)
Website / 1000 Dunson Road, Davenport, 33896

In our ever-changing, multicultural world, we will spark the desire in our school family to become responsible and caring decision makers. The global studies strand will be threaded throughout the academic, exploratory and enrichment curriculum. Integrated thematic units will supplement this additional academic program and include cultures, environments and economies, and emphasis on the appreciation of the cultural diversity represented in these studies will provide a core focus.


Lake Wales Charter Schools (K-12)
Website
The six conversion charter schools in the Lake Wales system are governed by a local Board of Trustees rather than the county-wide District School Board. The schools are Lake Wales High, Bok Academy, a middle school, and four elementary schools: Hillcrest, Janie Howard Wilson, Polk Avenue and Dale R. Fair Babson Park. Majority of these schools became a conversion charter school at the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year with Bok coming in after that.

Each charter school has its own admission process and timeframe. Visit their websites for information on the application process.

Middle & High School Alternatives

These schools are designed for students who do not fit the “typical” middle school or high school mold, or who have had behavioral issues and can benefit from a non-traditional school setting.

Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Charter High School (ages 16-21)
Website / 3425 Winter Lake Rd., LAC Bldg, Lakeland, 33803

Polk State Lakeland Gateway to College Collegiate High School is an exciting new opportunity for area students, typically between the ages of 16 and 21, who have earned 45% of the credits required for high school graduation.  All courses are taught on the Polk State Lakeland campus and offered during morning and afternoon hours, to provide students with maximum flexibility and opportunity for success. Gateway was designed for students who don’t fit the traditional high school mold.


New Beginnings Middle/High School (ages 16-24)
Website
Winter Haven Campus – 
3425 Lake Alfred Rd., Winter Haven, FL 33881
Lakeland Campus – 320 W. Main St., Lakeland FL 33815
Fort Meade Campus – 1002 NE 6th Street, Fort Meade, FL 33841
Most of you have a friend, neighbor, or acquaintance who is either having or has had issues in the public high school system. We understand how easy it is to get derailed and off track. With that in mind, we have created an alternative. New Beginnings High School will help get you back on track with our creative and highly motivating, innovative style of learning. We firmly believe our unique teaching techniques allow us to engage and service everyone who attends NBHS. Accepting students up to age 24.

Applications accepted year round. Visit their website for application information.


Compass Charter Middle School (grades 5-8)
Website / 550 E. Clower Street, Bartow, FL 33830

Compass Charter Middle School is designed for any child, in grades 5-8, who feels they are struggling in the regular classroom, is in danger of failing their current grade, or who has been retained in one of their elementary or middle school years.

Any student considered at risk of academic failure may submit an application for admission to Compass Charter Middle School.  At risk is defined by indicators such as State Tests scores, school grades, previous retention, attendance, etc and will determine status.  Students at Bartow Middle School will receive a priority to attend the Compass Middle Charter School.  However, the charter school will be open to any students within the district who qualify based on available seats.

Click here for application information.


Polk Education Pathways

Polk Education Pathways is offered by Polk County Public Schools as a way to help adult students find their own path, the right path, to the career they’re looking for. Ridge Technical College and Travis Technical College Applicants must be at least sixteen (16) years of age, and have the interest, ability, and desire to benefit in career education.

Learn more on the Polk Education Pathways website.

Each charter school has its own admission process and timeframe. Visit their websites for information on the application process.

Research All Schools

If you’re interested in additional research, the Polk School District website has a page of School Listings that can be sorted by Grade Level and Type of School. Click here to see the list.

Private Schools

Looking for information on Private Schools? You’ll find a list in our Directory.

Kindergarten Enrollment

If your child will turn 5 prior to September 1, 2020, he/she is eligible to start kindergarten in fall 2020, meaning you would need to apply DURING OPEN ENROLLMENT if you are interested in a magnet or charter school. Your zoned school will host a Kindergarten Round Up in March or April of 2020, check with your school for details. Click here to read more about enrollment documents.

Florida’s FREE Voluntary PreK Program (VPK)

Preschool VPK Florida

If your child will turn 4 prior to September 1, 2020, he/she is eligible to participate in Florida’s FREE Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) education program. There are a variety of VPK Providers in Polk County including public schools, charter schools, private schools, and private preschools.

Option to Defer: As of 7/1/16, parents whose children are born from Feb. 2 through Sept. 1 of a calendar year have the option to defer enrolling their child in a VPK program for one year.

How to apply for VPK in Polk County Schools: VPK/Title 1 Applications are typically accepted starting in March of each year. Check the Polk County Schools VPK website for the date in 2020.

Get more info in our recent post about VPK.

April Mucci Lakeland Mom
April Mucci Lakeland Mom

About the Author: April Mucci

April is the owner of LakelandMom.com. She has lived in Lakeland since age 2 and is passionate about our community and connecting families with local resources. She is a mom to 2 boys and a mini goldendoodle, wife to Matt. You can often find April at the baseball field where she cheers on her baseball loving 11 year old, or home building Legos with her 9 year old. She loves reading, saltwater fishing, and working on Lakeland Mom!