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How to Choice Into a Public School

A step-by-step guide to the application process.

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In Colorado, students can apply to ”choice in” to a district-managed, charter, or innovation school other than their assigned neighborhood school. If you’re interested in changing schools, here is a primer to take you through the open enrollment process.

1. Find a School

Develop a shortlist of potential schools by looking at your child’s interests along with school performance ratings and services. At schoolchoiceforkids.org, a search engine lets parents prioritize things like character education, flexible scheduling, gifted and talented programming, services for at-risk youth, and much more.

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2. Consider Location

When you enroll your child in a non-neighborhood public school, transportation probably won’t be provided. It’s a good idea to look for schools near your home or workplace—”Or someplace in between,” says Roberta Walker, senior manager of choice and enrollment services for Denver Public Schools (DPS).

3. Plan a Visit

Call the main office at your top schools to set up visits that include a building tour and time with the principal. Some districts make this step easier for parents by hosting annual expos and information nights. Check district websites for offerings and details.

4. Know When to Apply

You’ll be applying for enrollment into a school for the next school year. Districts set their own application time lines; while many hold open enrollment in January, your best bet is to call prospective schools and ask. DPS recently pushed back its first round deadline to February 28.

5. Fill Out Your Application

Set aside time to complete forms provided by prospective schools. The application process varies by district—sometimes even school!—so, make sure you know what’s required. Be prepared with ”supporting documentation,” which might include a birth certificate, proof of residency, and/or academic transcripts. If a sibling attends the school to which you’re applying, mention that; schools give priority to siblings. Consider applying to several schools, in case your first choice isn’t available.

6. Submit and Wait

Make sure to submit your child’s application before the application window closes. Don’t sweat it if you’re working up to the deadline: ”It isn’t first-come, first-served,” says Walker. Then, hang tight until March or April for results. But don’t worry: no child will be without a school. ”If you don’t get into your choice school, you’ll default to your neighborhood school,” Walker says.

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