Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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Most parents in the Fredericksburg area laud the locale as a great place to raise a family. They cite the area’s proximity to both the nation’s capital and the state capital, the suburban culture and the school divisions.

Those divisions vary widely in terms of size, diversity and location. Stafford County, which is the closest to D.C., educates more than 27,000 students in 30 schools. Caroline County, in the south, has 4,340 students in five schools.

The school divisions in the Fredericksburg area do share some similarities: All schools are on a traditional school-year schedule, typically starting just after Labor Day and ending in early June.  Most of the area high schools operate on a block schedule.

Like all school divisions in Virginia, the area schools implement the Standards of Learning tests each year. While some of the standardized testing subjects are similar, Virginia schools do not participate in the Common Core, the national education initiative that is used for standardized tests in most states. You can read our roundup story on last year’s standardized test scores here.

When parents consider a move to the Fredericksburg area, they often ask, “Where are the best schools?”

There’s no easy answer. It really depends on what you want for your children.

If you’re looking for diversity, Fredericksburg City Schools would be the best bet. High test scores? Spotsylvania or Stafford county schools. A rural atmosphere? King George or Caroline County.

Looking for a school where a rooster might stop by? Caroline County. Want them to walk the halls once graced by the presence of Miss America? Spotsylvania County.

You can get more details on the area’s school divisions and their test scores, climate and diversity here.

The area also offers an array of private schools, including Fredericksburg Christian and Fredericksburg Academy, as well as some pretty active homeschooling groups.

And it is home to some institutions of higher learning–including the University of Mary Washington, known for its liberal arts program. The school’s Fredericksburg campus houses its undergraduate programs, while the North Stafford campus hosts the graduate school and certification programs geared toward working adults. A new Dahlgren campus offers continuing education for engineers, scientists and administrative professionals.

Germanna Community College educates about 15,000 people each year in three campuses and a satellite center.