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Colorado families navigate 'School Choice' enrollment for next school year

Families can apply to move their children from one district to another
Posted at 7:36 AM, Jan 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-05 09:39:33-05

'School Choice' aims to give families more say in where their children go to school.

It can be a frustrating process to navigate said staff at Parents Challenge, a nonprofit in Colorado Springs.

The executive director, Deborah Hendrix, said more people ask for help with applications each year.

"I get calls all the time from family saying, I don't know where to start," Hendrix said.

This year is their busiest in more than two decades helping more than 180 families.

"We help families whether they are in our program or not," Hendrix said.

She said it's important to know what you're looking for in a school. Clubs, sports and arts can be "determining factors for students to love the school that they are at and also to be successful."

Parents Challenge is hosting a free Q/A school choice session for families from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 27 at the Great Wolf Lodge.

School choice allows families to move their children from one district to another or a school not in their neighborhood. This is made possible by a law passed by Colorado voters 30 years ago.

There are a select number of seats for school choice students at Academy School District 20. Students who already live within the district or have a sibling at the school are prioritized.

"We try to make sure we always have open seats but I can be really tricky so it some people do see that as a negative," Allison Cortez, Academy School Distrct 20's chief communications officer, said.

She recommended parents list more than one school on your application.

"We might not be able to get you into your first school the first year but if seats open up, we can eventually flow you into those schools," Cortez said.

You don't need to apply every year.

Cortez said applications are needed if you're moving in or out of your neighborhood school. That's mostly when you transition to middle school or high school.

Many Colorado school district are currently accepting School Choice applications. Deadlines are different for each one.

Why this time of year?

Cortez said it's because the winter months are usually when they hire teachers, which is based on the number of kids enrolled.

School Choice students made up nearly 20% of the Academy School District 20 last year. Cortez said those numbers have been consistent for a few years.

The more students enrolled means more funding for schools.

"The money part is great, don’t get us wrong, but for us, it’s really about making sure you find the right fit for your student," Cortez said.

School choice is now open, here's how to apply