A Comprehensive Guide to Public, Private, Charter, Magnet, and Special-Ability Schools
The task of choosing a child’s elementary school is daunting. The question, “Where is your child going to go to school?” sometimes feels like a transparent interlude into, “How do you plan to make your child’s life a success?” It’s enough to throw any parent into a frenetic tailspin. Lucky for the residents of Salt Lake City and Park City, opportunity abounds when choosing an elementary school. And not just for traditional schools. There are literally hundreds of excellent choices and top-rated public, private, charter and special-ability schools.
This article will lay out Salt Lake County and Park City elementary school choices in the following categories: Overall Top-Rated Public Elementary Schools, Top-Rated Public Elementary Schools by District (With Gifted & Talented and Magnet Program Information), Top-Rated Charter Schools, Top-Rated Private Schools, Religiously-Affiliated Private Schools, Special-Ability Schools, Neighborhood Favorites.
For an in-depth discussion of the quality of Salt Lake’s elementary schools and the debate over private- and public- elementary school choice, we highly recommend reading our previous blog: Navigating School Choice in Salt Lake City.
Open Enrollment at Public Elementary Schools
Every student in the state of Utah is guaranteed enrollment at their local public school. However, Utah’s open-enrollment policy also allows a student to transfer to any public school of his or her choice based on availability. Parents interested in enrolling their child in a different school or district other than their local school must submit an application during the open-enrollment window. For all Salt Lake County districts, this window is between Dec. 1 and the third week of February (we recommend verifying this with your district of interest). Park City School District has closed their schools for open enrollment for the 2020-21 school year.
Gifted and Talented (i.e. ELP in SLC School District) programming and some dual immersion magnet programs have application and assessment requirements. Applications are typically due a year in advance. Contact your district of interest for more information.
If you have missed a deadline, we recommend reaching out to your school of interest in case openings are available.
Overall Top-Rated Public Elementary Schools
Test scores, Great School scores and other online data were compiled to create our top-rated public elementary school list. Each of these schools have consistently high rankings which vary minimally year after year. As such, we have not ranked them but have asterisked those with the top-ten highest test scores in 2019. Below, you’ll find links to each school, neighborhood and district.
*=Top-Ten Test Score
Top-Rated Public Elementary Schools by District
Salt Lake County is divided into four school districts: Salt Lake City (SLC), Granite, Murray, Canyons and Jordan. Park City School District covers all of Park City proper as well as its surrounding communities. We have noted which of these schools offer Gifted & Talented and Magnet Schools programs. You can also click here for complete Magnet School Options in Salt Lake County.
We would like to note that it pains us to leave off a few of our favorite local schools from our lists below. There are fantastic programs that don’t rank quantitatively in our “best-of” data. But as we all know, test scores are not the whole picture. We strongly encourage you to visit your local school before making any open-enrollment or charter-school decisions. Being a part of your local neighborhood school is an invaluable way to strengthen and connect to your community.
Top Canyons School District Elementary Schools
Alta View Elementary (DI-Spanish)
Altara Elementary (DI-Spanish)
Butler Elementary (DI-French)
Draper Elementary (Magnet–Chinese)
Lone Peak Elementary (DI-Chinese)
Oak Hollow Elementary (DI-French)
*Peruvian Park Elementary (G&T)
Ridgecrest Elementary (DI-Chinese)
*Sunrise Elementary (G&T)
*=Top-Ten Test Score, DI=Dual Immersion, G&T=Gifted & Talented Program
Top Jordan School District Elementary Schools
|Diamond Ridge Elementary|
Eastlake Elementary (DI-Chinese)
|Elk Meadows Elementary|
|Jordan Ridge Elementary|
|Riverton Elementary (G&T)|
Southland Elementary (DI-Chinese)
*=Top-Ten Test Score, DI=Dual Immersion, G&T=Gifted & Talented Program
Top Murray School District Elementary Schools
Note: the Murray School District is the smallest school district in Salt Lake County and all of its elementary and junior high schools funnel into one high school–Murray High. Due its smaller size, and its ability to track students over time, it is known for being an approachable district with well-rounded programs.
Top Salt Lake City School District Elementary Schools
Emerson Elementary (DI-Spanish, G&T)
Hawthorne Elementary (G&T)
*=Top-Ten Test Score, DI=Dual Immersion, G&T=Gifted & Talented Program/”ELP” in SLCSD
Top-Rated Charter Schools
Utah’s conservative political leanings nurture a thriving charter-school sector in Salt Lake County and Park City. With schools specializing in everything from fine arts, to outdoor learning to academic rigor, there is a charter school for every student and ability. Here are our top-ranking charter schools in alphabetical order.
|American Preparatory Academy||Draper||1-6||Academic rigor & character development|
|Canyon Rim Academy||MIllcreek||K-6||“Charter of the Year”, focus on liberal arts and individual learning|
|Channing Hall||Draper||K-8||International Baccalaureate (IB) prep|
|Early Light Academy||Daybreak||K-9||History, liberal arts|
|North Star Academy||Bluffdale||K-9||Individual learning, character development, academic rigor|
|Salt Lake Arts Academy (SLARTS)||SLC||5-8||Performing and fine arts|
|Weilenmann School of Discovery||Park City||K-8||Focus on whole child, liberal arts, emphasis on |
outdoor exploration in Park City
Charter School Enrollment
Most charter schools begin accepting applications a year in advance, usually in September. By law, charter schools are required to have a lottery if they have more applicants than spots available. However, they are allowed to divide the year into application periods (often by month). At the end of each application period, applications turned in during that month are put in a random order through a lottery process. A waitlist, if any, is then generated. A child’s chance of acceptance is based on the number of applications, the number of openings and the number of people who accept or decline an offer of enrollment. Contact your charter school of interest for details.
Top-Rated Private Schools
Utah public schools are notorious for their large class sizes and low per-student funding. Salt Lake City and Park City have exceptional private school options for parents looking for more individualized student attention or a like-minded community. Here are our top-ten private schools based on published school data and our own qualitative evaluation. Tuition data is current as of January 2020. Many schools offer financial assistance and tiered tuition pricing. We recommend contacting the school for the most current tuition information.
Top-Rated Private Schools Ranked
Montessori/ Special-Ability Integration
|Our Lady of Lourdes||SLC||K-8||$7,996|
|St. Andrew Catholic||Riverton||PK-8||$7,500|
|St. Francis Xavier Elementary||Kearns||PK-8||$7,996|
|St. John the Baptist||Draper||PK-5||$7,996|
|St. Vincent De Paul||SLC||PK-8||$7,750|
Other Religious Private Schools
Other Religious Schools
|American Heritage||LDS||South Jordan||K-12||$3610-5560|
|Anchor Christian School||Baptist||SLC||K-12||$2,500|
|Iqra Academy of Utah||Islamic||West Valley||K-6||$2,700|
|Summit Christian||Seventh Day Adventist||SLC||PK-8||$5,200|
With its proximity to the University of Utah and BYU, Salt Lake County has some of the nation’s most progressive special-ability private, charter and public schools.
Private and Charter Special-Ability Schools
Highly regarded on state, national and international levels, the Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning provides state-of-the-art intervention for children and adolescents with autism. Read more about them in our blog, A Valentine for the Pingree Autism Center.
The Elizabeth Academy and Garfield School are inclusive Montessori schools serving children with diverse learning styles, strengths and challenges. Alongside typical and gifted children, who comprise the bulk of their enrollment, they include a manageable percentage of children with documented learning needs, roughly 15%. Their curriculum includes a wide variety of enrichments and therapies.
Spectrum Academy is an innovative public K-12 charter school specializing in educating students with autism and other learning needs. Teachers are highly-qualified with dual certification and training in social–cognitive deficits. They provide small class sizes, individualized instruction and innovative social-skills curriculum. The school helps students reach their fullest potential academically, socially, and emotionally, leading to productive and successful futures. Sibling or students not on the spectrum are welcome to attend.
The Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) has been serving students who are deaf, blind, or deaf-blind throughout Utah for more than 100 years.The Utah Deaf School ranks #1 nationwide in high school completion rates for deaf students. The school for the deaf celebrates all communication modalities and allows students to find the education that works best for them. The Utah Blind School experts share their best practices with teachers internationally. For example, many educators follow USDB best practices for making STEM accessible to blind students. The school for the blind implements academic curriculum in addition to specially designed instruction called the Expanded Core. Utah serves as a leader across the country and around the world for the education of students who are deaf, blind, or deaf-blind. The school has campus locations in Ogden, Salt Lake (Millcreek) and Springville and serves all ages, infants through adults.”
Public School Special-Ability Programs
A full–range of special ability (i.e. special education) programs and related services are available from preschool to post-high school transition in all Salt Lake County and Park City School Districts. Districts work with students to develop IEP and 504 plans for class integration or special education programs.
Public Special Education Resources
Highland Park Elementary School, Salt Lake City School District
A parent with a special-ability student at Highland Park Elementary in the SLC School district shares her experience in the public school system.
“My son has been attending Highland Park Elementary since kindergarten. He is now in 6th grade and he has multiple diagnoses, including Down syndrome, autism, and sensory processing disorder. We’ve had a wonderful experience at Highland Park, despite his many challenges.
Back when Max started school, the special education classrooms were labeled ‘life skills’. They emphasized teaching kids skills like opening their own milk carton at lunch, alongside regular academics including, math and reading. They have since been relabeled ‘essential elements’ and strive for more inclusion. As my son’s needs are more than most of his peers, he doesn’t thrive in a regular ed classroom as many others do. But regardless, every time I pick him up and walk through the halls, many, many students and teachers say hi, calling him by name. Not once I have ever felt he wasn’t wanted there or didn’t belong.
His amazing teachers and paras have patiently, countlessly, waited for hours as he lay on the playground refusing to stand and come inside. They are truly caring and amazing individuals. On many occasions they have brought gifts and school work to our home when Max has been absent for extended periods due to illness or simply refusal to get in the car and go to school.
I have friends who cringe at the thought of their yearly IEPs. I have no idea what that is like. Our IEP team at Highland Park never focuses on what Max can’t do, but is always excited to discuss his strengths and future possibilities.
Kauri Sue Hamilton School, Jordan School District
The Kauri Sue Hamilton School in Jordan School District is a west-side school for students with severe, multiple disabilities. The facility includes a swimming pool, two playgrounds, two multi-sensory environment rooms, therapy treatment rooms, a health clinic, eighteen classrooms, a cafeteria, and gymnasium. They integrate adapted learning materials that are enriching and interesting, increase awareness of the world, and foster family and community integration.
Our Neighborhood Favorites
Salt Lake City
Ensign Elementary School (Public, The Avenues)
Ensign Elementary is known for its strong sense of community, academic excellence and beautiful view on 12th Avenues of the Salt Lake Valley. It is one of three SLC schools to offer the Curriculum & Assessment Lab (C&A) program. Students have the opportunity to stay with the same teacher for two years in a row & work in cohorts for more in-depth learning & research based concepts. They offer the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, music for all students, and ELP (Salt Lake City’s Gifted & Talented) program for 4th-6th grades.
Madeleine Choir School (Private, The Avenues)
This Catholic School nestled in the heart of the Avenues offers students a holistic approach to exceptional age-appropriate learning. Their music curriculum is unmatched, but they also offers outstanding instruction in the humanities, mathematics and the sciences (STEAM), as well as foreign languages (Spanish and Latin), visual arts, theology, and athletics. Tuition is based on a tiered scale and the application process is somewhat extensive (application, assessment, tour). Choir travels annually to Italy.
Uintah Elementary School (Public, Yalecrest)
Consistently ranked as one of Salt Lake’s best schools, this walkable elementary is also one of the city’s oldest (rebuilt in 1993). Uintah participates in the Beverly Taylor Sorensen Arts Learning program with a theater emphasis. An on-site art specialist works and Art Tech initiative integrates art across the curriculum. Upper grades also participate in a music program and a dance program through Tanner Dance.
Bonneville Elementary School (Public, Yalecrest)
Bonneville is a top-scoring Utah school in reading, math and science on SAGE testing. It is known for its parental involvement and strong sense of community. Land Trust funds provide technology, professional development, and after-school math tutoring. As recipients of the Beverly Taylor Sorensen program, the school has a full-time art and science teacher. Younger grades participate in Tanner Dance and upper grades choose an instrument to learn as part of their music program. Bonneville also offers a robust after-school program (K-6) and winter ski program (3-6).
Highland Park Elementary School (Public, Highland Park)
Another walkable Salt Lake City favorite, Highland Park boasts an excellent staff and faculty, robust community involvement, and first-rate instruction. It is a place where caring, respect, trust, family and responsibility are taught and lived everyday. The Hands On Science program is offered to students in Grades 3-6. A community partnership with Artworks For Kids, and the Virginia Tanner Creative School of Dance Children’s Dance Theater, allow every student to have quality fine and performing arts instruction on a weekly basis.
Carden Memorial School (Private, Highland Park)
Carden is a lesser-known private-school gem tucked unobtrusively into the neighborhood of Highland Park. Touting a “classical education,” the school focuses on civility, ethics and the joy of learning. Their goal, “is for our students to become lifelong learners who hold a genuine love and appreciation for the beauty in the world and are grounded in gratitude and truth.”
Other Salt Lake City Schools
You typically can not go wrong with most elementary schools in Salt Lake City. Of special note in our area of influence stand Uintah, Bonneville, Beacon Heights, Indian Hills, and Dilworth Elementary Schools.
Educational opportunities abound in the Holladay and Millcreek neighborhoods. Morningside, Oakridge, Eastwood and Cottonwood Elementary are all top-scoring schools in the state. Along with the other top-tier Granite schools listed above, we want to bring attention to another neighborhood favorite.
Oakwood Elementary (Public, Holladay)
Principal David Cracroft and his teachers, staff and volunteers are some of the warmest and friendliest around. Oakwood has a diverse student population and its test scores don’t measure the qualitative excellence of this school. They are a Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program and Tanner Dance recipient. Their outstanding PTA ,STEM, chess, orchestra and drama programs, alongside a state-of-the-art facility and school grounds, make this one of our favorite elementary schools, and one that usually flies under the radar, in the Granite District.
Daybreak is one of the fastest growing cities in Utah and has some of the county’s best schools. Within the villages of Daybreak are currently three elementary schools (Daybreak, Eastlake and Golden Fields) with another opening next school year. Each of the schools strive to bring a sense of community and walkability to the neighborhood. Daybreak elementary schools, as part of the Jordan School District curriculum, promote learning with deep questions, and provide interventions for students on all levels. Eastlake Elementary provides a Madarin Chinese immersion program for grades 1st- 6th.
Along with the three public schools, Daybreak is also the home to Early Light Academy. Early Light is a K-9 charter school initially launched by Daybreak residents provides a liberal arts education with an emphasis on history. Daybreak is also home to a 6-12 charter school, American Academy of Innovation. This academy combines experiential learning with technical education, 21st century skill and partners with international university partners for student mentoring.
Daybreak Communities assists the Jordan School District in forecasting for future educational needs. These future plans include building three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school in the near future. As the community grows, the district plans to continue to proactively purchase sites to place schools within walking distance of most students.
Riverton Elementary School (Public, Riverton/Bluffdale)
Riverton Elementary is one of three ALPS (Active Learning Practices for Schools) elementary schools in the Jordan School District and serves as a magnet for accelerated students who qualify for advanced placement. They also work with students with special needs and autism. All teachers are trained in strategies that help them differentiate instruction to meet the individual learning needs of students.
Here to Help
Salt Lake County and Park City are awash with excellent school options. If you are trying to sort through the best schooling options for your family, reach out to us! Our employees have students attending public, private and charter schools in neighborhoods all along the Wasatch Front. Let us share our advice and the options available to your student. We are also happy to discuss education options as part of the home-buying process.