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Expanding sign-up periods
Parents may be provided with useful information about public school choice and SES, yet still not be empowered to exercise these options because the period for submitting applications or enrollment forms is too short. A sign-up window that, for instance, opens when parent notices go out and closes two weeks later is unlikely to give all parents of eligible students—whose individual circumstances may vary greatly—sufficient time to decide whether to pursue public school choice or SES for their child.
While a district may need to set a deadline by which parents must make choices, it should ensure that this deadline is reasonable and allows parents ample opportunity to choose a transfer school or SES provider.
Using multiple or rolling windows. A short sign-up period at or around the beginning of the school year may also exclude from participation parents of eligible students whose desire or need for public school choice or SES does not become apparent until later. To further ensure that families have real opportunities to make choices, many districts offer multiple application or enrollment windows throughout the school year. Alternatively, other districts use a rolling or continuous application or enrollment process, which allows parents of eligible students to choose a transfer school or SES provider at their convenience.
In some cases, district administrative needs may force a district to not offer rolling enrollment or to impose cut-off dates for receipt of forms earlier than might otherwise be preferred. In others, needs on the part of SES providers to reach a critical mass of students prior to starting services may require a district to take similar actions. In cases such as these, the district should work with both parents and providers to determine application and enrollment processes that are acceptable to all parties and that enable the district to meet its obligations under the law.
Making it work
In some instances, parents will wish to pursue SES for their child after attending parent-teacher conferences or upon receiving first progress reports or first-quarter or first-semester report cards from the school. A district should ensure that its SES enrollment process allows parents in these circumstances to enroll their child with an SES provider (although a district should also offer SES enrollment opportunities closer to the start of the school year). Indeed, some districts (and their schools) have held special enrollment periods or "pushes" that coincide with these events.