A decade ago, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) students were automatically enrolled in their neighborhood school.

Now, the more than 35,000 students in the district get to pick the school they want to attend. Often, it’s not as close to home. 

About two-thirds of CMSD students attended a school in a different ZIP code from where they lived, according to district data that reflected enrollment for a single day in November of 2022.

Many students in the district attended more than one school or changed schools multiple times throughout the school year. 

Most high school students lived and went to school in different parts of the city

About three-quarters of high schoolers attended school in a different ZIP code than where they lived. Often, that means they have to get to school on their own — either taken by their families, friends or public transportation. The district doesn’t provide school buses for high school students but does give out tickets to ride Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority buses and trains. This year, the district is spending $1.27 million for those fares. It pays $1.70 per ticket.

Families have a lot of factors to weigh when they pick a school, including distance; reliable and safe transportation; academic quality; extracurricular activities; and specialty services or programs, such as English language learning support. Following changes in state law and within the district, many families now attend charter schools, including some that partner with the district, and private schools that accept vouchers to help with tuition. 

The interactive map below shows the different Cleveland district schools and how many students attended those schools from within and outside the ZIP code where the school is located. The information is a snapshot from Nov. 1, 2022. About 150 students were listed as having no ZIP code or the ZIP codes provided didn’t have the correct number of digits. In some cases, school buildings house more than one high school. The district also had about 500 students listed as attending a virtual school.

Use the dropdown list to search for a specific school. Rollover the different locations to see how many students live in the ZIP code. Share the map using this link.

Magnet or “city wide draw” schools often attract students from across the city

Those include high schools such as Cleveland Early College and Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, which drew only 5% of their students from the same ZIP code as the school buildings. The district does provide school buses to “city wide draw” schools from anywhere in the city. Those schools include single-gender schools and other specialty programs such as Montessori learning.

K-8 schools such as Campus International and Natividad Pagan appeal to families across the city. More than 95% of Campus International’s students come from outside the school’s ZIP code, and just a third of Pagan’s students are from the same ZIP code. 

Some CMSD schools still function as neighborhood schools

For example, Anton Grdina is an elementary school in the Kinsman neighborhood that serves about 350 students. Of those, 75% live in the same ZIP code as the school – the highest percentage out of any school in the district. Fourteen other elementary schools draw at least 60% of their student body from the surrounding ZIP code. 

Among high schools, Collinwood High School draws the most students from the surrounding 44110 ZIP code, with 45% of students living there. New Tech West, Glenville, John Marshall and John Adams high schools all draw more than a third of their students from the same ZIP code as the school building.

Signal Cleveland Director of Research and Impact April Urban contributed to this piece.

Cleveland school choice

Choosing a Cleveland school (Explainer)

For a decade, Cleveland has been an open enrollment school district. Parents, caregivers and students can choose which school they want to attend within the district. CMSD uses an online portal where families select their top choices for elementary or high schools. 

Cid Standifer is a freelance data journalists. She has more than a decade of newsroom experience, and has written for The Marshall Project, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Belt Magazine, Cleveland Scene, Eye on Ohio and The Washington Post. Prior to moving to Cleveland, she covered the military for Stars and Stripes, Military Times, Inside the Navy and USNI News. Standifer has a master's degree in African history from Emory University and a bachelor's degree in history and physics from Grinnell College.

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covered K-12 education for Signal Cleveland until August, 2023. Paul joined us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.