Applications for school choice in Delaware will open to parents in less than two weeks, and districts and charters are trying to make sure families have an easy time navigating through the process.
Red Clay Consolidated School District hosted a virtual school choice information session Tuesday night to share the timeline of the school choice window, tips to remember and new changes.
Most districts and charters have some sort of school choice information night at the end of October or early November, so check into a school of interest’s website or social media pages to find dates and times.
Delaware is a school-choice state, which means families can apply to send their children to a school outside of their regular feeder pattern.
The First State is one of 13 in the country in which parents are free to apply to any public school – district or charter – they wish to send their children to rather than sending them to the neighborhood school associated with their addresses.
There is, however, no guarantee of acceptance at that school. Districts use various methods to fill their classes and many students are put into a lottery or on waitlists.
The application process has recently gone digital to allow parents to submit information online and ease the burden of having to deliver paperwork to a school.
Applications for the 2024-2025 school year open Nov. 6 and close Jan. 10, 2024.
“Kindergarten is that one exception, and kindergarten choice is open until the first day of school,” said Kristine Bewley, who oversees the Red Clay’s Office of School Choice and is the district’s director of information systems.
Bewley said she recommends parents of rising kindergarteners apply during the school choice period because after a lottery has been completed, it’s first-come, first-serve so students would be further down the waitlist the later they apply.
The lottery system is enacted when a school has more applications than seats open. For example, it might have 100 open seats but 500 applications.
District and charter preferences often change and sometimes get shuffled in terms of priority.
“If you are a seasoned choice-parent, you may notice that these are a little bit different than in past years,” Bewley said. “It was changed last year when the state changed the choice law and the district adopted the policy.”
For Red Clay, the preference order is:
- Returning students
- Students applying for a program who live within the school’s attendance zone
- In-district siblings of returning in-district students
- In-district students
- Out-of-district siblings of returning out-of-district students
- Out-of-district students
There are many nuances to the process. For example, Red Clay’s Brandywine Springs school has an elementary and middle school. The elementary school has a normal feeder pattern, but the middle school is a full-choice building.
“So there are no sixth, seventh or eighth graders living in a house that automatically are assigned to Brandywine Springs,” Bewley said. “So if you’re a fifth grader and want to stay in Brandywine Springs, you have to apply for choice for sixth grade.”
School choice scenarios
Bewley said there’s often confusion about the sibling preference.
A student must be returning to the same physical building the next year for their sibling to receive that preference.
If a student is trying to choice into School A, if their sister attended School A for years but graduated and is now in School B, the student would not receive sibling preference for School A even though their sister previously went to School A.
Parents also have to be cognizant of transportation implications for different schools.
“The last thing we want is for you to accept placement you and your child are super happy about that, and then in August when you receive transportation information, you realize that you are unable to drive your child to the choice stop or school,” said Kelley Shahan, manager of transportation at Red Clay.
School choice stops refer to common areas like parks or shopping centers that serve as hubs for students who choice into a school outside of their residential assignment.
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.
Red Clay families will have a decision within a week of the school board’s Feb. 7, 2024 meeting.
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.
- Choice selection: After the choice window closes families will be notified of their application status by Feb. 29.
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.
Share this Post