Looking to enroll your child in a public school? There are good options within Shelby County Schools, but you have to do your homework and work at getting your child into some of them. For reviews and more details on public schools visit the EMM Memphis School Guide.

In-District Schools are for kids who live within a specific geographic area, and everyone in the school is in the same program.  If you don’t live in the school area but want to transfer in you can apply during Open Enrollment.  In 2013 this was done online on February 15 with the school system saying parents would find out if their child got a spot on April 1.  This deadline wasn’t met.  For details see this post.

Optional Schools run programs that are more focused in certain areas than in-district programs.  Exactly what is focused on varies by school.  Most kids are tested to get into these programs, and all of their parents applied to the school.  Some schools are 100% Optional and some are split between Optional and In-district programs.  To learn more about Optional schools visit the SCS Optional Schools website.

Optional School Applications available at 6:30am on Monday, January 27 (according to the CA)

As a public school mom, my recommendation is to tour several schools and ask around for opinions regarding each school.  Look into the PTA (involved parents are important) and find current parents to talk with regarding the school.  The more you study your options the clearer things will become.  For tips on evaluating a school check this post.

Here are the public schools in the East Memphis area recommended by the moms:

Elementary Schools

The Campus School
school website | Facebook page
Part of Shelby County Schools and the University of Memphis.  Enrollment preference is given to students of faculty, siblings, then opened up to families that live nearby. Contact the school for more info.  The new parent information meeting is Friday, January 10 from 9-11am. The registration period is January 27-30. More info in this PDF.
We LOVE campus school – to best chance to get in is for first grade and you need to live pretty close to U of M.

Grahamwood Elementary
school website | PTO website | PTO Facebook Page | PTO Twitter
“Enriched Academics” optional program for grades 1-5 and an “in district” school for grades K-5.
Optional Open Houses: January 21 & 23 at 9am & 6pm

  • Grahamwood has a very active parents association, a very large CLUE (gifted and talented) program, extracurricular programs, enthusiastic teachers, dedicated staff members, an outdoor classroom and more.  Many Optional students live out-of-district, so if you’re in Memphis and are interested in this school you have a great chance of getting in….we moved here in June and my son got a spot, so be patient if you are on the waiting list.
  • Grahamwood’s Optional Program has been fabulous, I truly can not say enough positive things about our experience there. This is our second year at Grahamwood. We actually switched our daughter out of private school due to finances and she wasn’t learning enough. She has caught up and exceeded expectations since we switched. She is now in 3rd grade and I’m ready to test for optional. I also have a son who is in special ed pre-k at g’wood. We love it there!! The teachers and staff are awesome!
Students (including mine) in a Grahamwood Optional ad

Idlewild Elementary
school website  | PTO website | PTO Facebook page
A K-5th grade “Science and Technology” Optional school, no in-district program
Optional Open Houses
: January 21-24, 9am-noon.
We have loved our year at Idlewild! They have optional kindergarten!

Idlewild K, 1st and 2nd graders at field day

Peabody Elementary
school website | PTO website | PTO Twitter
A 1st-5th grade “Enriched Academics/International Studies” Optional school with a PreK-5th grade In-district school.
Optional Open House: January 9 at 8:30am & 6pm
It is a small Optional School with a focus on International Studies with a Russian immersion language program. Because it is small (3 classes/grade level and only one optional class/grade level), and is highly sought after by the neighborhood, we only have a few spots for out of district students. But if you feel like camping out in line, your child will get an incredible education! Great school (Optional or Not) Definitely worth the line to get my daughter in three years ago.

Richland Elementary
school website | PTO website | PTO Facebook page | PTO Twitter
K-5th grades, not an optional school

  • We have loved Richland Elementary- the parent involvement is so great and academically it seems pretty challenging. My Kindergardener can speak more Japanese than I ever thought possible. They have tours once a month. (901) 416-2148
  • We’re so happy with Richland Elementary!
  • You’ll have the best chance of getting onto Richland as a kindergartener. Richland is indeed best elementary ( not optional) and both my kids are / were prepared for optional middle schools.
  • Richland is the best. And I was not zoned for it. I got there about 30-45 minutes before the doors opened. Got in line and waited until the very last moment for them to call. We did get in and my son LOVES it! It doesn’t matter the age, it matters where you are in line when you go and how many spots are opened! I will say, Grahamwood would have been my 2nd choice, but we never got a call from them. My daughter is a 4th grader at Richland and has received a top-notch education there since kindergarten. She started out with Spanish in kindergarten and 1st grade then Japanese was incorporated into the curriculum. She is on her 3rd year… of Japanese and loves it. She recently had an opportunity to use her language skills with native Japanese tourists visiting downtown Memphis. They were impressed. The teachers work hard to make sure these kids are prepared for White Station Middle. The parental involvement is awesome! Being a White Station (optional student) alum myself, I can vouch for the incredible quality of education at both White Station Middle School and White Station High School. Grahamwood has always had a terrific optional program, as well.

Riverwood Elementary
school website | PTO website
An optional school of “Community Service and Global Awareness” and an in-district school, K-5th grades
Optional Open Houses: January 21 at 9am & 6pm

  • Riverwood Elementary School is the Best!!!!
  • Riverwood Elementry. Great MCS, great location, family atmosphere and the principal has gotten several state awards. On top of all of this the school is OPTIONAL.  And the school is only two years old!!!

Sea Isle Elementary
school website | school Facebook 
A PreK-5th grade school, not an optional school

  • We are at Sea Isle and have been pleased so far. Small school (only 4 first grade classes.)
  • That is my only wish for Sea Isle too (a foreign language program), but the teachers are great, and there is a great feeling of community there that I love. We love Sea Isle! We’ve had a great experience there…very active PTA and great teachers K-2..My daughter will be starting 3rd grade there this year and we’re very excited!

Snowden Elementary/Middle
school website | PTO Facebook pageSnowden School Foundation
A PreK-8th grade school, optional program for grades 1-8.
Optional Open Houses: January 14 at 6pm and January 14-16 from 8:30-10:30 (elementary only)

White Station Elementary
school website 
K-5th grade in district school, not an optional school

  • I’ve been pretty happy with White Station Elementary. This is our first year (I have a Kindergartener and 1st Grader) and I like our teachers, PTO is great and so is the rest of the staff. I only wish that there was a foreign language program was offered.
  • Could not speak more highly of this school! My child is in kindergarten and has learned so incredibly much there! He is now able to read “Level 2” books (could not read when he started) and can add double digits. There are 19 kids in his class and everything is so organized and well-run. The school building is like new (6 or 7 years old). It is not overcrowded at all. There is an awesome gym and space to play, huge music room where each kid plays a xylophone or drum or other instrument, a huge art room, etc. Our child feels loved there and loves all if his friends. We knew no one going into it and have met so many awesome parents since. It is THE best kept secret in Memphis.
  • All three of my boys went there, and I could not speak highly enough of WSE!! Great teachers, and I understand that the new principal is fantastic!
  • Ms. Thomas, the principal IS fantastic!……and yes, the teachers are great

Middle Schools


White Station Middle School
school website | PTO Facebook page
6th-8th grade optional and in district programs.
Optional Open HouseJanuary 16 at 6pm

  • White Station Middle is a great school!
  • A proud and happy parent of both Grahamwood Elementary and White Station Middle!

Maxine Smith STEAM Academy
school website | PTO Facebook page
The NEW midtown middle school (formerly Fairview Middle School, new name TBD) is offering an ALL optional STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics) program.  This is a new Optional school that will run in partnership with Christian Brothers University.  According to this CA article, the school plans to open with 100 qualified sixth graders and 100 qualified seventh graders.  They will add an eighth grade for the 2015-16 school year.
Open House: at Christian Brothers University Buckman Hall – Spain Auditorium on January 13 at 6pm.

High Schools

White Station High School
school website  | school Facebook page | school Twitter
9th-12th grade optional and in district programs
Optional Open House: January 9 at 6pm

The Run for Sparta 5K

The Run for Sparta 5K for White Station High School

Kingsbury High School
school website
Open HouseJanuary 30 at 6pm
Kingsbury has some good things going on re: foreign language, international studies. And they are a truly diverse student body. Look at their stats. 

Central High School
school website
Optional Open House:  January 23 at 6pm
We have neighbors who go to Central…always hear good things about their Optional Program

Overton High School
school website | school Twitter
Optional Open House:  January 21 at 6pm
Overton. My alma mater. Best band director in the city, if your kid’s into that. Also, I believe it’s the only CAPA school in the city now.