Are you new to the USA?
You might be asking, “Where will my child go to school? How do I enroll 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 fill out a form so the school can accept your child.
What school will my child go to?
The year your child was born and the place you live will determine which school your child will go to.
Find your local public school by typing in your address. It should show your assigned elementary, middle, and high schools based on where you live. These are schools for different grade levels. It is always best to still call or visit the school to make sure the information is correct.
Some schools require that you make an appointment to enroll your child.
What paperwork do I need to enroll my child in school?
Each school district has its own registration form when you enroll your child in school. You can find the form on the school district’s website. You can also go to the school and talk to the school secretary. The necessary paperwork might include:
- Proof of residency in the school district. This means you have to prove 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. These requirements vary by school district.
- Your income. If you do not make a certain amount of money your child could get free or reduced-price lunch.
Know your rights
If you live in temporary housing, you may qualify for the McKinney-Vento Act as homeless. This gives you the right to enroll your child in the school near where you are living without showing proof of residency or other documents. This includes people staying in hotels through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
If you need help, contact the Homeless Education Helpline at (800) 308-2145.
The school should not ask about your immigration or citizenship status. Your immigration status is not needed to prove your residency.
A social security number (SSN) is not required to register a child in school. Some schools may ask for it but you do not have to provide your social security number if you do not want to.
When do I enroll 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.
What happens if my child doesn’t speak English?
If your child is learning English, tell the school during the registration process.
The school will ask what languages are spoken at home. The school could place your child in a bilingual education program. This type of program is temporary until your child learns English. It is not offered in all schools.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many schools have resources to help families that do not speak English.
Does my child have to go to school?
Yes. 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 all students.
Schools keep track of every day your child is there. The school will warn you if your child is missing too many days of school. You can get in trouble with the law if your child is missing too much school.
An absence is when your child is not at school. Most schools have 2 types of absences: excused and unexcused absences.
Examples of excused absences:
- Religious holiday
- Doctor’s appointment
- 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 family
- Work, but only if part of an approved cooperative education program
- School sports team game or competition
- School-sponsored club or activity special event
- Suspension (a disciplinary action taken against a student showing unacceptable behavior)
Examples of unexcused absences:
- To help with things at home, such as babysitting a sibling
- Sleeping in
- Missing school without telling the school in advance
- Choosing not to go to a class (also known as “skipping” class)
The student is always responsible for making up all the work he or she missed.
Being late to school
Being late to school can also be a problem if it happens often. Being late is also called a tardy. Tardies can be excused and unexcused. Excused tardies have the same list as excused absences.
Talk to the school staff
You are responsible for telling the school the reason for the absence. Call the office or write a signed note to the teacher, secretary, or principal.
If you know your child will miss school ahead of time, tell the school. Sometimes, the absence is unexpected. That is okay. Call the school in the morning or the next day.
If you are having trouble getting your child to school, let them know. They can offer help.
What does my child need for school?
Your child will need school supplies. Some schools require that students wear a uniform to go to school.
The school district website or the teacher will have a list of school supplies. Backpacks, notebooks, pens, pencils, and binders are the most common supplies. The list can be different depending on the grades.
School supplies can get expensive. There are organizations that offer help like the Salvation Army, United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and others.
Some public and private schools require student uniforms. Check with the school to know if your child needs to wear a uniform.
How will my child 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.