Can Families Register Their Kids for School with a Temporary Housing Address in the US?
Some Useful Tips
With last minute relocations and difficulty securing a permanent residence in this challenging housing market, families may need to enroll their children in school while they are still in temporary, corporate accommodations. But will the public school district permit enrollment from a temporary address? Here are some key considerations and a little guidance:
First, determine whether students are guaranteed a seat in their desired neighborhood school. While this is generally the case in the US, it is not so in every district. California, for example, is a notable exception. If their neighborhood school is at capacity, students will be seated in a different school within the district.
Assuming that the students will be welcomed at their neighborhood school, there are various processes required for school enrollment. Step one is establishing residency. The challenge for the family in corporate housing is that they will not be able to produce the documents required to provide proof of residency. These may include, for example, two utility bills and a piece of government mail. The district may permit the family to sign a temporary residency agreement. This gives time to secure required documentation while allowing registration to proceed. When a permanent home is secured, the family will be able to produce the required documentation and complete the process of establishing residency.
In the case where the family has just moved into their permanent home and they do not yet have the required documentation to prove residency, there is again the option of a temporary residency agreement which gives the family more time to collect required documentation. In all cases, the goal is to have the kids in school!
The more difficult scenario is when the corporate or temporary housing address maps to a school that is different from the family’s preferred school in their target neighborhood. It is not always possible to secure temporary accommodations within the preferred school boundaries, and families want to avoid compelling their kids to change schools between temporary and permanent residences. In such instances, schools will typically try to work with the family. They may accept a signed lease agreement or settlement statement for home purchase, allowing the kids to enroll in target school before the family actually moves to their permanent home. And, once again, they can sign a temporary residency agreement which permits time to collect required proof of residency documents.
While districts may grant flexibility, they may not accept as proof of address a home that is under contract because home sales have been known to fall through. The registrar may accept only closing documents as proof of address.
With lots of enrollment pressure on well-regarded public schools these days, the district may have a strict interpretation of registration requirements such that children will have to enroll in the school associated with temporary housing address, not the likely target school associated with the permanent home. Although an eventual shift of school is not ideal, there is consistency of curriculum across all schools in a district and the student should have a rather seamless academic transition.
In all instances, it is critical that families be aware of school registration requirements so that they understand the implications of residency choices—temporary and permanent-- for their children’s schooling. Before committing to immediate and longer-term housing, it is wise to gather all relevant information so that they know exactly where and when their children will be enrolled, based on their possible addresses.
A dedicated professional education consultant will be familiar with school residency requirements and will reach out to district personnel to seek guidance in those unusual circumstances that mobile families may face; districts are eager to have students in school and will often grant some flexibility.
We hope you find these tips helpful and wish you all the best in your new, even if temporary, home.
Sara R. Schmidt is the Director of Business Development & Client Relations, Co-Director of Private Client Services and a Senior Education Consultant for Bennett International, based in Seattle. As a member of an internationally mobile family, Sara has navigated the school search process for her own children on three continents, finding the right fit for them in public, private and international schools. She is very familiar, therefore, with the anxieties and hurdles faced by parents relocating their children around the world, and her work is informed by her own extensive experience. Sara serves as Trustee and was President of the Bellevue Schools Foundation in Bellevue, WA, and is a member of Pacific Northwest Relocation Council and Bay Area Mobility Management. She holds a B.A. Ed., Summa Cum Laude, from Wheaton College and an M.A. in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School and is also fluent in Spanish.
Over the years, Bennett International Education Consultancy has worked with hundreds of corporations across the globe, many of them Fortune 500 companies, providing domestic and international school advisement & placement services - preschool through university - to the dependents of relocating employees. In addition to education placement, our team provides customized consulting for corporations with a range of education issues: education policy writing & benchmarking, tuition studies, group move advisement & planning, and remote education solutions.