Charter schools are typically considered a part of a public school system in a particular district and state. Because of this, charter schools are subject to all laws governing any public school, including civil rights and federal special education laws. Enrolling your child in a charter school generally involves several steps.
- Applications-Many charter schools offer parents the option of applying online or printing out an application and mailing it in to the school. Most applications require specific information, including name, address, birth date, name of last school attended, ethnic background, primary language and school district. Charter schools also need information on a child's special needs requirements, including a copy of an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and any other relevant information as well.
- Fees-Because charter schools are typically part of a public school system, application is usually free. In fact, an education received through a charter school would also be considered free, although of course there may be classroom and book fees for various classes.
- Open Enrollment-If you are considering enrolling your child in a charter school, you should pay close attention to any deadlines regarding that school's open enrollment policy. An open enrollment simply implies that all children have equal opportunity to enroll in that particular school. Open enrollments may be offered in the spring for the next academic year or they may be offered at the beginning of a new school year.
- Lottery Selection-Keep in mind that just because you have enrolled your child during open enrollment doesn't mean your child is automatically accepted into that school. Many charter schools' applicants far outnumber the available spots on the school's roster. In that case, charter schools often hold a lottery. A lottery is usually open to the public. During the lottery, names are randomly drawn from the overabundance of applicants, and those children are then admitted to the school based on their number in the selection process and the available space. All of the names in a lottery are typically drawn, even though there may not be enough spots to accommodate everyone. In that case, those names are placed on a waiting list, and they will be called in number order as vacancies occur.
- Waiting Lists-Charter schools typically continue to send out any school-related information to the families of waiting students. While it is unusual for all of the students on a waiting list to be placed at the school, circumstances may arise which could allow your child to attend the charter school of your choice.
- Sibling Preferences-Many parents worry that their other children will not be able to enroll in a charter school. In this case, sibling preference is often given to the brothers and/or sisters of children who are already enrolled in a school. If a child is given a spot in a school through a lottery drawing, his or her sibling will typically be placed near the top of a subsequent waiting list as well.
- State Requirements-To find out all of the details regarding enrolling your child in a charter school, it is important that you call and/or visit the school as soon as possible and ask for any information available.