Schools of Choice applications to be online in March

The days of parents forming long lines outside schools on the frigid morning when applications become available for Schools of Choice may be a thing of the past.

This year, School District 51 is putting the applications online and permanently pushing back the application window from February to March.

Schools of Choice applications allow parents to convey interest in enrolling their children in a District 51 school other than the one the children would be assigned to attend based on where they live. The school district reviews the applications and assigns students to their desired schools on a first-come, first-served basis until the school’s anticipated enrollment meets capacity.

The first-come, first-served nature of Schools of Choice applications is what prompted parents in past years to line up early for the applications, and quickly complete them.

Parents this year will both fill out and submit the applications online, which means they don’t have to come to a school to apply.

However, parents without access to a home or work computer can come to any school to submit the application on a computer in the school’s office.

District 51 Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen said there is a possibility that a limited supply of paper applications will be available for parents who have no access to a computer and cannot fill out the application at school. School employees would take the applications and type the information into an online application, but Larsen said that process may pose problems when it comes to time-stamping an application.

Larsen said the changes were prompted by a desire to wait longer to process applications to get a better sense of future enrollment and to prevent schools from playing favorites with in-person applicants.

“In a way it equalizes the playing field,” Larsen said.

Applications will become available under the link at 10 a.m. the first Monday in March, which is March 3 this year, and must be turned in before 4 p.m. the last school day before spring break, March 21.

Parents of current Schools of Choice students will not have to apply this year to keep their children in that school next year, but parents of students shifting from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school will need to apply for Schools of Choice to start at a new, out-of-neighborhood school.

Last year, District 51 School Board members considered having two application windows for Schools of Choice. There will continue to be only one this year, according to Larsen.

Parents should be notified whether their application request was accepted early in April. Parents must return a letter of commitment to proceed with enrollment at a requested school no later than April 25.


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