Register my child in school

To start your child at school in the USA you must first register your child as a student. This means you need to visit the school and sign papers so the school can accept your child. Here you will learn what school your child will go to, what paperwork you need to register your children for school, when to register your children for school, if your children have to go to school and the types of school absences, what your children need for school, how your children will get to school, what are immunizations, and what your children will eat at school.

young school friends outside school
Photo: iStock/kate_sept2004

Are you new to the USA? You are probably asking, “Where will my child go to school? How do I register my child in school?”

What school will my child go to?

The year your child was born and the place you live will determine which school your children will go to. Find your local public school.

What paperwork do I need to register my child in school?

The necessary paperwork might include:

  • Proof of residency in the school district. This means you have to show that you live in your house or apartment. Examples of proof of residency are a signed apartment lease, a bank statement, or a utility bill with an address. This is to show that you live in a neighborhood near the school .
  • Proof of age. For example, a birth certificate or passport with your child’s birthday.
  • Immunizations or other health records.
  • The school district may require a meeting with school administrators to get the student fully enrolled.
  • Each school district may have its own form when you register your child in school. Find the form on the school district’s website. You can also go to the school and ask to talk to the school secretary.

When do I register my child in school?

Most schools in the USA begin at the end of the summer or early fall, in August or September. If you arrive in the United States in the summer, you can visit your child’s school in July or August to learn how to enroll. If you arrive in the United States during the school year, you should enroll your child as soon as possible.

Do my children have to go to school?

School attendance is required for students in the United States between the ages of 6 and 16. In some states, the ages might be different by 1 or 2 years. You can find out the ages and number of years in your state.

Regular attendance is very important for your student. Schools keep track of attendance. You can get in trouble with the law if your student misses too many days of school. You will get many warnings if your student starts to miss too many days. The exact number is different for different school districts.

An absence is when you are missing from school. Most schools have 2 types of absences. The 2 types are excused absences and unexcused absences.

Examples of excused absences

  • Sickness
  • Religious holiday
  • Suspension, a disciplinary action taken against a student showing unacceptable behavior
  • Dangerous weather conditions where you can’t get to school safely
  • Lack of authorized transportation (for example, if the bus does not show up)
  • Death in the immediate family
  • Permission from the principal
  • Visit a college campus
  • Work, if part of an approved cooperative education program
  • Participation in short-term or full-time work
  • School sports team game or competition
  • School-sponsored club or activity special event

Examples of unexcused absences

  • Missing school without telling the school in advance
  • Skipping (not going to) a class
  • Being late to school. Being late is also called a tardy. Tardies can be excused and unexcused. Excused tardies have the same list as excused absences.

The student is always responsible for making up all the work he or she missed. You, or a parent or guardian, are responsible for telling the school the reason for the absence. Tell the school by calling the office or attendance office, or by writing and signing a note to the teacher, secretary, or principal. If you know your child will miss school ahead of time, it is better to tell the school before. Sometimes, the absence is unexpected. That is okay. Call the school in the morning or the next day.

What do my children need for school?

Students usually have to bring supplies, or tools, to school with them. The school district website, the school website, or the classroom teacher will have a list. The list can be different for different grades.

Notebook paper and pencils or pens are usually required. A three-ring binder or folders to hold papers are also helpful.

School supplies can get expensive. The simplest paper, pencils, and pens work. You do not need to buy the most popular or fanciest. Sometimes, teachers or schools have extra supplies and can provide them if you need. Schools or community or religious organizations sometimes give away school supplies. Search for school supply help a couple of weeks before school starts. Most of the giveaways will be right before the school year starts.

How will my children get to school?

Most school districts provide transportation to get to school. If you live close to the school, the school might expect that you can walk or ride a bike. The school district website will have information on busing and transportation. It will tell you where to wait for the bus and what time the bus will be at the stop. Contact the school secretary about transportation information.

School districts consider transportation a student privilege, not a student right. The privilege can be taken away if students are not behaving properly. Riding the school bus requires the same behavior as being in school.

What are immunizations?

Immunizations are shots that children in the United States are normally required to have to go to school. These requirements vary by the school district. They are sometimes ruled by state laws. Your child needs to have all the required immunizations or needs to have a waiver showing why they do not have them. Records of immunizations are usually required for enrolling a student or when they start school.

What will my children eat at school?

Public and private schools offer low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. This is a federally funded program called the National School Lunch Program. The amount of money a household earns determines whether a student qualifies to receive a free lunch, reduced-cost lunch, or neither. Some school districts send information home about the National School Lunch Program. Ask the school secretary for more information.

Some schools provide breakfasts as a part of this program. Some schools provide food to students in low-income families for the weekend, school breaks, or summer vacation. The school secretary can talk to you about free and reduced lunches or help you to find the person to talk to.