Open Enrollment Charter School – Application vs. Enrollment
Has your district started the student application process for the next school year? If so, it is important to remember that applications and enrollments are two separate and distinct processes in which different information is gathered.
What should occur during the Application Period?
During the application period schools should only ask for basic student information. This application is typically completed by the parent and includes the student’s name, age, grade level, home address and the parent’s contact information. This information should be collected because it will allow you to ensure that the student is eligible to attend school in your district and will enable you to contact the family in the future. With just this basic information you will be able to determine if the student is in a grade level that your school is authorized to serve and if they live within the geographic boundaries your district is able to serve, as outlined in your charter. At this time, you may not TREx the student’s current school for records or ask for any additional information such as transcripts, test scores or immunization records from the student’s parents. It is important to note that while you can accept applications all year long, an open-enrollment charter school must have an application period with a specific deadline date each year.
The term open enrollment means that any student can apply to your charter school and your school’s charter will specify any admission exceptions. Your district should have an admissions policy that must describe your district’s lottery process. If your district receives more applications than available student openings, you must use a lottery process to determine the students that will be offered admission. This lottery is conducted using the basic information gathered during the application period.
What should occur during the Enrollment Period?
Once a student has been admitted to your district the enrollment process can begin! This is when your district can have the new student’s family fill out your student enrollment packet and you may request information about past academic achievements and other pertinent school records including any special services the student may have been receiving, such as SPED or LEP support. Please keep in mind that you can’t ask for any of this information during the application period, only once the student has been admitted to your district.
A non-discrimination clause must be included in your district’s application for enrollment. An example of a non-discrimination clause is “Superior Charter School does discriminate against students on the basis of sex, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, academic, artistic, or athletic ability or the district the child would otherwise attend.”
Does your district have an admissions policy that requires a student to demonstrate artistic ability if the school specializes in performing arts? Please know that no student auditions can be required prior to the student’s admission and enrollment in your district unless your “charter school was originally approved by the State Board of Education (SBOE) or the commissioner of education as a performing arts school with an audition component or the charter was amended by the commissioner of education to designate the school as a performing arts school with an audition component.”
When can a student be denied enrollment?
There are only two situations in which an otherwise eligible student can be denied enrollment in your district. A student must be denied enrollment, if based on their home address, they are zoned to a district that is outside the geographic boundaries outlined in your Charter. The second is when the student has “a history of a criminal offense, a juvenile court adjudication, or discipline problems under Chapter 37, Subchapter A, only if the exclusion was specifically approved by the SBOE or commissioner of education when the charter was originally awarded, or if the charter was amended by the commissioner of education to allow this exclusion.”
Guidance from the TEA Legal Division states that if space is available in your district, past the open enrollment period for enrolling new students for the next school year, an eligible student must be admitted and enrolled immediately, regardless of the day or time of day. Open-enrollment charter schools cannot choose specified days or times for admission and enrollment of students when there is space available. State law does not allow for a trial enrollment period in a public school. There should not be any period of time in which a student attends your charter school without being enrolled as an active student in your district.
Need some assistance?
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your district’s admission and enrollment processes and procedures, please reach out to Laura Jandle, CSS PEIMS Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.