2nd application period for School of Choice may be added to policy

School District 51 School Board members will consider adding a second window of opportunity for School of Choice applicants next month.

Applications put a student in line for the possibility to attend a school that is outside the attendance boundaries in which he or she lives.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said Friday that recent decreases in enrollment have cleared up more space for applicants and prompted the district to revisit its School of Choice policies since theoretically more students will be able to use the process.

“Most of it is cleanup and clarification,” Schultz said.

He presented the board with two revised School of Choice policies for a first reading at the board’s meeting last week.

A second reading and adoption of the policies is scheduled for Feb. 5.

The revised policies would maintain the current open enrollment application window of the Monday of the second week in February through March 1.

They also would create a second application window between the first Monday of May and the last Friday in July.

The new application periods could go into effect as soon as this year, Schultz said, with the first round of applications being accepted Feb. 4.

Under current policy, parents can submit School of Choice applications to multiple schools and do not have to inform the other schools if they are accepted to and choose another school.

Parents also get acceptance letters sometimes as late as August and, if they don’t get in at first, can remain on a waiting list at a school until as late as Oct. 1.

Those factors can lead to principals staffing a particular grade with more teachers than needed if some choice students don’t show up or stop showing up soon after school starts because they got into a different school through a waiting list opening.

The revised policy still allows parents to submit applications to multiple schools but requires school principals to write a letter to parents accepting or denying a first-round application by March 30 and requires parents who get an acceptance letter to commit to one school in writing by April 15.

The revised policies delete the waiting list concept and instead allow denied School of Choice applications to apply for a school transfer or reapply during the proposed May through July application period.

Those who apply or reapply in the second application window will be notified of acceptance no later than the end of the first week of school, and parents will have to return a commitment letter by the student’s first day of attendance.

More prompt responses from principals would require greater analysis of school demographics and enrollment projections, Schultz said.

But that would allow schools to more sooner accurately predict how much space they have for choice applicants, rather than waiting to see who shows up on the first day of school.

The first window would get some students into the schools they want, and the second window would give those rejected another chance as the enrollment picture becomes clearer at a school.

“The second window is an opportunity to make (the choice process) accessible but also be adaptive to any changes that might happen as school ends (in May), such as families moving in or out,” Schultz said.


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