Colorado Charter, Option, Magnet, and Innovation Schools

Charter schools are free public schools of choice that are founded by parents, teachers, or community members. Charter schools provide a different type of educational program than traditional public schools. Each charter school has its own governing board and a contract with either a school district or the state’s Charter School Institute.

Students must open enroll into charter schools. Check with the individual charter school to learn about enrollment dates and the application process.

In 2023-2024 there were 261 Colorado charter schools serving over 135,000 students, which is more than 15 percent of the public school enrollment in the state. To see a list of Colorado charter schools, click here. For more charter school resources, please visit Colorado League of Charter Schools.

Option schools are free public schools of choice that provide a special focus or educational program. Unlike charter schools, option schools are run by the school district. Option schools may also be called “magnet” or “focus” schools.

Most option schools do not have an attendance area and all students must open enroll into the school. The Denver School of the Arts or Jefferson County’s D’Evelyn Junior/Senior High School are examples of option schools that do not have attendance areas.

Some option schools are also neighborhood schools. When an option school is a neighborhood school, students living in the attendance area may attend the school. Students who do not live in the attendance area must open enroll into the school.

Innovation Schools: A school whose innovation plan has been ratified is known as an “Innovation School.” A group of schools that jointly submit an innovation plan that is approved are considered an “Innovation School Zone.”

The Colorado Innovation Schools Act of 2008 (Senate Bill 08-130) provides for a school (or group of schools) to request certain waivers from state law and / or collective bargaining agreements. Depending on the type of waivers requested and received, the school may have greater autonomy and flexibility in academic and operational decision-making, such as hiring and firing, professional development, budget, calendar, and curriculum decisions. The school must submit an innovation plan to its school district board of education for approval. The innovation plan outlines the changes the school plans to implement in order to improve student outcomes. If approved, the school district board of education must submit the innovation plans and waiver requests to the Colorado State Board of Education for ratification.

When you use to search for schools in your area, all charter, option, and innovation schools located in your area will appear in your search results.