Controlled Open Enrollment: What do you need to know and how can it help your child?

If you do not want your child to attend your local school, then you now have a new option.  Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, a parent may enroll their child in any public school within the State of Florida  if (1) the school is not at capacity, and (2) the student is not currently subject to an expulsion or suspension.  In Palm Beach County, “capacity” has been determined to exclude any school that is more than 90% full.    Here is some important information to consider if you want your child to participate in Controlled Open Enrollment:

  1. On April 3, 2017, the school district will publish a list of schools available for Controlled Open Enrollment.  The window to apply is April 3-May 7, 2017. You must apply online through the Palm Beach County School Choice site
  2. Transportation will not be provided.
  3. Pre-K is not available through Controlled Open Enrollment.
  4. Charter schools do not participate in Controlled Open Enrollment.  You need to contact a charter school directly to apply for enrollment.
  5. A lottery will be held for schools in which the number of applications for Controlled Open Enrollment exceed the number of spaces available.
  6. Preference for Controlled Open Enrollment will, per Florida Statute 1002.31, be given to the following populations of student:
    • Children of active duty military personnel whose move is a result of military orders,
    • Children in foster care who have been relocated to a different school zone,
    • Children who have moved as a result of a court-ordered change in custody due to divorce, separation or death of a parent/caregiver
    • Students who reside in Palm Beach County
  7. Once those seats have been filled, then preference will be given to (1) siblings of children already attending the school and (2) siblings applying together to the same school.
  8. ESE students are eligible for Controlled Open Enrollment.  It is important to note that Controlled Open Enrollment is separate and different from the McKay Public Option.  If your child has an IEP, then an IEP team may convene to ensure that the IEP can be met at the chosen school.
  9. You are not limited to schools in the county in which you reside.  Do you live in Martin County, but work work in Palm Beach County? Or do you live in Palm Beach County, but want your child to attend a school in Broward?  Open enrollment is available to Florida residents in any public school district within the state.  If you are interested in another school district, please check their website for the relevant application process and deadlines.

How do you choose what school to apply to for Controlled Open Enrollment? First, realize that seats at very popular schools will fill up quickly, so your odds of enrollment will be diminished if a lottery needs to be held.  Second, don’t go by school grades alone because they can be misleading and not always relevant to finding the best fit for your child.  Does your child have a particular interest that a school may offer?  For example, some elementary schools offer arts programs like band or drama.  Some middle schools have a great SECME team that your science-inclined child may enjoy.  Maybe your child wants to be part of a strong marching band program and baseball team in high school.  Take a tour of the schools you’re interested in and ask questions about clubs, sports and aftercare programs.

If your child struggles academically, then ask what type of supports the schools offers to meet your child’s challenges, including tutoring and types of reading programs they use.  If your child excels academically, then ask whether the school has enrichment programs, participates in academic games or offers pull-out or full-time gifted.  If your child has behavioral challenges, then ask about the school’s positive behavior plan and their suspension rate.  Of course, since transportation is not provided, consider the school’s proximity to your home and work.

While the process may feel overwhelming, the good news is you only have to do it once.  Once your child is enrolled, you do not have to reapply. Your child may remain at that school until the last grade completed.  As always, should you feel that your child has not been treated fairly, has been denied an appropriate accommodation or placement, or you wish to appeal a school district decision, then please contact our firm at 561-247-5852 for additional assistance.


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