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8 things to know about enrolling your child in LA's public schools




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For many parents trying to decide where to send their kids to school, the process can be overwhelming.

There are traditional public schools, magnet schools, charter schools, dual language options and private schools. 

Sending your child to your neighborhood public school is the simplest option but even that choice can be complicated. How do you find out which school is yours? What if it's full? What if you live in one neighborhood but work in another?

Amy Walia-Fazio, Executive Director of the Parents Education League of Los Angeles, joined Take Two to answer parents' most frequently asked questions.

1. If you live within LAUSD, how do you find your local neighborhood school?

The easiest way to find out is by going to LAUSD.net and looking under the Resident School Identifier. You enter your address and it pulls up every school that is your resident school. You might have more than one choice depending on where you live.

2. What does "resident" school mean?

Some people say neighborhood school, home school or resident school. The most correct term is resident school. It is the school zoned for the zip code you live in.

3. When and how do you enroll in your resident school?

When you want to sign up for the school you're assigned to, you can fill out their paperwork on-site at the school. A lot of times it's available online too. Usually the forms are available in the Spring (around March/April) prior to the start of school in Fall.

It's as simple as filling out the forms, unless your school has a special designation to it, for example, if your school is a charter school and could possibly have some preference to it. If your school has a charter designation or is an affiliated charter, they'll usually have a residential preference. In case they don't, that's something you want to know. That's easy to find out by calling or visiting the school and asking about their application process.

4. What if your school is full?

That does happen. If you get a late start on the process or don't get your paperwork in on time, you may find that your resident school has met its enrollment cap for the year. If all of their resident spots are full and they just don't have space, you'll be assigned a neighboring school. That may or may not be your best fitting school, but you will have another option. 

You may also get put on a wait list for your resident school if they've already met their enrollment cap. Often times a lottery is used to rank the wait list and they do sometimes go to the wait list depending on how many spaces become available once the school year begins. The best advice is to get your paperwork in early.

5. If you live in one neighborhood and work in another one, is it possible to send your child to the school in the neighborhood where you work?

It is possible with what's called an intra-district permit. There's several criteria that can allow you to move to another school within LAUSD that's not your resident school. The most popular way is the parent employment or "work permit" criteria. The caveats are that the parent has to be physically employed full-time within the attendance boundaries of the requested LAUSD school. 

Another way is through a specialized program like, for example, the Schools for Advanced Studies. If your resident school does not have an SAS program, and there is a nearby school that does have/is designated an SAS school, it’s one way to apply for an intra-district permit. 

The other way that may fit for some families is the childcare criteria. If both parents, or the caregivers, are employed full-time, and the person who's going to be picking up and dropping off the child (i.e. a grandparent)  is located within the attendance boundary of a school, that's the third way to get an intra-district permit. 

One thing to remember is that you'll need both schools (your resident school and the school that's not your resident school) to sign off on an intra-district transfer. The good thing is that if you have multiple children, once one child is in the requested school it's easier to get your other children in as well.

6. What are the other school districts in the region and do they operate the same as LAUSD?

There are a number of other school districts: Santa Monica-Malibu Unified, Beverly Hills Unified, Culver City Unified,  just to name a few. Every school system will operate slightly differently.

7. What if you want to go from one school district to another?

If you live outside of the LAUSD boundaries and you want to go to a school within the LAUSD boundaries, it requires what's called an inter-district permit. The criteria for that permit are similar to the intra-district permit.

If you live within LAUSD and you want to go to a neighboring public school district, the big way is the parental employment criteria. It's hard to switch districts because of programming because what you're saying is that nowhere in LAUSD is this particular program offered. That's difficult to claim because LAUSD is very large and has such a wide variety of options that there is almost a program for everybody.

8. What's the best advice for figuring out whether the resident school is the right option for your family and a "good" choice?

We use the term "fit" all the time. What's the right fit? What's the best fitting school? It's something that you can hone in on with criteria. What are your top three criteria when you look at a school? Is it diversity? Is it program? Is it class size? Teacher tenure? What are the criteria that you want for your child's educational experience.

It's a good idea to talk to friends, family, and other parents you meet at the park. Gather a list of schools you've been hearing about and then check them out. School-ratings.com is a helpful site that can paint a little bit of a picture of a school. The best way to learn about a school is to be on-site. Take a tour and really feel the school out.

Finally, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all school. No school is going to be the right fit for every child, every child is different. What might be the right fit for your best friend's child may not be the right fit for yours.

Series: Good Schools

As part of its Good Schools series, Take Two looks at the education landscape in the Los Angeles area. That includes its public schools, magnets, charters, private institutions and dual-language programs. You’ll hear from parents, academics, teachers, kids and even a couple of TV show producers.

Read more in this series and let us know your thoughts on Facebook, or tweet us @Take Two and @KPCC with the hashtag #goodschools.