Today – Monday, Nov. 6 – is the first day Delaware’s school choice window opens, allowing parents to file applications to send their children to a school outside of their neighborhood.
“Every child learns differently, which is why Delaware being a ‘school choice’ state is so important,” said Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.
“This week, the school choice window opens and parents will have an opportunity to put in applications for the schools that they believe will best fit the needs of their child.”
The window will stay open through Jan. 10, 2024.
Only 12 other states have school choice, allowing parents to apply to as many public schools – district or charter – as they wish for their children.
States that don’t offer school choice assign children to schools based on where they live.
Delaware’s children are no different – each are assigned to a school based on their residency, but they also have the hundreds of other state public schools as options.
There’s about 25,000 applications submitted each year.
“It isn’t always an easy process, though,” Massett said, “There are two top things to remember.”
First, she said, there are many choices out there, and not all are going to be right for every child.
For example, a student interested in the arts should probably apply to choice into a school like the Cab Calloway School of the Arts, and a child passionate about science or math could consider the Conrad Schools of Science.
“If your child doesn’t like wearing a military uniform, learning military history, having extra physical fitness training, and marching, then they should not go to either of the two military charter schools,” Massett said. “If your child doesn’t want to learn a trade or have vocational and technical training as part of their high school journey, a vo-tech school will not be right for them.”
The opening of school choice can serve as a perfect time for parents to find out what is available and what might be the right fit for their child.
Virtually all districts and charters have some sort of an information night, sometimes several, during which parents can learn more about a school and its academic programs, as well as have a chance to meet teachers and other faculty.
Massett said the second important factor to remember is that Delaware now requires students to be registered in their district of residence before choice applications can be accepted.
Even if a parent has no intention of sending their child to their assigned residential school, they still have to go through the registration process.
Delaware does not have a universal registration process, but it does have a universal choice application.
Each district has a different online process, she pointed out, so parents must check the district’s website for what they need to do.
“Most importantly, parents need to know that applying for school choice is your right,” she said. “Do not let anyone make you feel bad or wrong for making decisions that you believe will best fit your child’s educational needs.”
Schools also have specific preferences for future students.
Some students who apply to a school will get preference if they have a sibling in the school or if they live within a 5-mile radius of the school they are applying to, for example.
Families will be informed of a decision sometime in February 2024 and will have until March 15 to decide where their child will attend school next year.
Schools that get more applications than they have seats usually start a waitlist, because sometimes their accepted students choose another school.
At one time, parents had to fill out paperwork and drop it off at a school. Now everything is done online.
School choice process
To apply to a district or charter school, visit the state’s school choice portal here and follow these recommended steps:
- Register a student in the school of residence, which is where a student attends based on their home address, using the school locator map.
- Visit school websites and attend school-choice meetings to learn more about available programs, upcoming informational meetings and application requirements.
- Complete the standard application form here. This link will also show families if a school has spots available or if its near capacity, at capacity, has a lottery or has a waitlist.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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