The principal public school districts in Tompkins County are Ithaca, Lansing, Groton, Dryden, Newfield, and Trumansburg. These six districts lie completely or almost entirely within the county. There are another ten or twelve districts that are further away, but still within a very reasonable commute of Ithaca, the employment center for our region.
There are many wonderful schools and dedicated teachers in our area, and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of school visits to find the right one for your child. Please don't go by test scores alone, or the recommendations of colleagues as to the "best" schools.
The Ithaca Consolidated School District is the largest in the area. Eight elementary schools -- Belle Sherman, Beverly J. Martin, Caroline, Cayuga Heights, Enfield, Fall Creek, Northeast, and South Hill -- are for pupils Grades K-5. Belle Sherman, BJM, Caroline, and Northeast students go on to DeWitt Middle School; Cayuga Heights, Enfield, Fall Creek, and South Hill feed into Boynton Middle School. The Ithaca district also includes the Lehman Alternative Community School, a portfolio-based program for students grades 6-12. A charter school, New Roots, currently serves students in grades 6-8 but plans to grow to a full 6-12 program.
The Dryden Central School system has three primary schools for children K-2: one in the Village of Dryden, Cassavant in the hamlet of McLean, and Freeville in the Village of Freeville. As of third grade all children attend Dryden Elementary School, and then the Junior/Senior High School.
The outlying school districts, clockwise (more or less) from the north are: Southern Cayuga, Moravia, Homer, Cortland, Newark Valley, Candor, Spencer-Van Etten, Odessa-Montour, Horseheads, Watkins Glen, and South Seneca.
Our area also boasts an array of private schools, some with a religious affiliation and some non-sectarian. The Cascadilla School is the only private alternative for high school students but several go through sixth or eighth grade:
Cascadilla School Located in the City of Ithaca (East Hill), high school ages
Covenant Love Community School Town of Dryden near Freeville, pre-K through Grade 8
Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School Town of Ithaca (South Hill), pre-K through age 14
Immaculate Conception School City of Ithaca (downtown), pre-K through Grade 8
Ithaca Montessori School Village of Lansing, pre-K through Grade 1
Ithaca Waldorf School Town of Danby, pre-K through Grade 6
Namaste Montessori School Hamlet of Jacksonville, pre-K through age 12
North Spencer Christian Academy Town of Spencer, Grades 1-6
Northern Light Learning Center (City of Ithaca) exists to expand educational and social opportunities for home schoolers throughout the area.