Moving from the UK to the US with School-Aged Children? Registration in US State/Public Schools
Some Notes to Keep In Your Pocket
Part Four in a Series by Elizabeth Sawyer, CEO, Bennett International
Registration in US State/Public Schools
In the US, the equivalent of a school council is a school district, and each one will have a website where you can find information about schools, how to register, and contact information for district personnel.
In the US, every residence is assigned to a local public school, and this is considered your home school. In most areas, you are guaranteed a spot in this school by virtue of your address, and so you don’t typically need to worry about schools being oversubscribed. Your child will be entitled to a spot at your home school, and so you can consider schools and know where your child will attend, before signing for a residence.
There are exceptions to this, and they are typically in urban areas in the US where certain districts will bump students to a school other than the home school, if the home school is full. This is the case in New York City, for example, (an area where everything works differently) and also some urban areas on the west coast. Even in these cases, however, a district will place a student promptly and typically be very helpful in telling parents ahead of time where the child will attend.
When it comes to registering your child for public school, it’s very simple. Unlike in England, for example, you don’t have to go through an application process; rather, you just show up with the requisite documentation and voila, it’s done! District websites will provide lists of what’s necessary—typically, paperwork to prove residency in the district, passport or birth certificate, and vaccination records. Please note that some districts require a visit to a US doctor prior to registering, so this is something to focus on, along with vaccination requirements, which may be different from those in the UK. In the US, the Hepatitis vaccine is required, for example.
Also perhaps helpful to know is that US Federal law (you can search the web for IDEA) requires that each child be given free and appropriate education. This means that if your child has Special Education Needs (SEN), they must be provided for by the district. More on this, however, in a separate discussion!
Elizabeth Sawyer, CEO
Pt.2 - US Curriculum: The Basics
Pt.3 - British School Curriculum: The Basics
Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.