Interdistrict Public School Choice Policy Frequently Asked Questions, Updated & Revised December 7, 2012

Topics (click on the topic below to go directly to related Q&A):
Note: Updated as of January 17, 2013.

Deadline extensions due to hurricane Sandy

Q: Are there deadline extensions for the Intent to Participate and Confirmation of Student Enrollment/Eligibility to Participate forms?

A: Yes, the deadline to verify student enrollment/eligibility will be extended. Parents must submit the Notice of Intent to Participate in the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program (Word | PDF) by November 26 and districts must send the Confirmation of Student Enrollment/Eligibility to Participate (Word | PDF) back to parents by  December 3. The student application to choice districts (Word | PDF) is due by December 7. The forms on the website have been updated:
http://www.state.nj.us/education/choice/cdistricts/forms.htm .

Intent to Participate Form and Confirmation of Student Enrollment/Eligibility to Participate Form

Q: What is the purpose of the Intent to Participate form and who should fill out the Confirmation of Student Eligibility to Participate (to be renamed Confirmation of Student's Enrollment) form?

A: The primary purpose of the Confirmation of Student Eligibility to Participate form is to help the choice district designate the applicant as either a tier 1 or 2. The form should be sent to the applicant's current resident district so it can indicate whether the student is or is not currently enrolled in his/her district of residence. If the resident district fails to provide confirmation of the student's enrollment/eligibility to participate to the parent or guardian by 11/26/12, the student may apply to the choice program without it. The student should provide a signed and dated receipt for the delivery of the Notice of Intent to Participate Form and include with his/her application.

Student eligibility criteria for enrollment in choice districts

Q: Can a choice program use criteria for enrollment that is based on student performance, including test scores or grade point?

A: A choice program cannot discriminate in admission policies on the basis of intellectual aptitude. The law states the following:  A choice district may evaluate a prospective student on the student's interest in the program offered by a designated school. The district shall not discriminate in its admission policies or practices on the basis of athletic ability, intellectual aptitude, English language proficiency, status as a handicapped person, or any basis prohibited by State  or federal law. (See 18A:36B-20 Interdistrict School Choice Law: http://www.state.nj.us/education/choice/law.htm)

However, if a choice district limits admissions to a special choice program with a particular area of concentration, it may evaluate prospective students on their interest in the program and it must apply the same admission criteria for all students admitted to the program, whether they are choice or resident students. When developing admissions criteria for a special program, school districts must ensure that the identification methodology used is developmentally appropriate, non-discriminatory and directly related to the programs and services offered. The NJDOE will review all Choice program admissions criteria in the district's Choice application that is submitted for approval.

Q: Can a choice district request discipline records as part of its application?

A: No, a choice district cannot request discipline records as part of its  Choice application or use discipline records as enrollment criteria.

Student enrollment procedures for choice students in districts with send-receive agreements or in limited purpose regional districts

Q: If a choice student completes the terminal grade in a choice district with a limited grade span, can the choice student automatically enroll in the receiving district school or a constituent district with a regional high school (including a limited purpose regional district) to which the choice district's resident students are sent as part of a send-receive agreement or a constituent relationship?

A: Any choice student who reaches the terminal grade level of the choice school district either (a) returns to the resident school district if that school district has grades above the choice school district; (b) is sent to the receiving school district that the choice student's resident school district
students attend; or (c) applies to and is accepted into another choice school district with the requisite grade level. In this last scenario, when a choice student needs to change school districts because they have completed the terminal grade, they must reapply to another choice district with the desired grades.

However, if the choice district in which the choice student has completed the terminal grade has a send-receive agreement or a constituent relationship with a school with the requisite grades and the receiving school is in a choice district, the receiving school choice district may give enrollment preference to the choice student from their sending district. If the receiving school choice district decides to give enrollment preference to choice students from their sending district, it must develop an acceptance policy that is equitable and defensible. A high school district should develop policy
adopted by the board regarding choice student applicants and the preferences allowed.

If enrollment preference is granted, the following process should be used:

  • The choice student must fill out the choice application for the receiving school.
  • The new receiving district must notify the resident district of the student's change in enrollment by Jan. 14, 2013.
  • The transportation request information for the student must be sent to the resident district by March 15, 2013.

Advertising and revising the number of choice seats available

Q: How should a choice district count the number of available seats as required in their Program Profile?

A: A choice district should count all seats for which a student application is required. This excludes any students who will convert automatically to choice students (e.g., tuition students). It includes siblings and students for whom an enrollment preference is given according to the board's acceptance policy (e.g., students from sending schools in send-receive agreements).

Q: How can a choice district revise the number of choice seats it offers?

A: there are 2 ways for a choice district to revise the number of choice seats available:

1).Before Oct. 5, 2012 (and in future years before Sept. 15), a choice district must send to the NJDOE program office an updated/revised program profile including the number of seats by grade/program. The NJDOE will post on the website all updated choice program profiles for parents to identify and learn about available choice options. This information should be provided to the NJDOE on an annual basis so that the website can be updated with the most current information. 2) After Oct. 5, 2012 (and in future years after Sept. 15) and up until December 10, a choice district must submit a Seat Amendment Request to the NJDOE to increase or decrease the number of choice seats available.

Q: Must a choice district fill all of its approved choice seats, or can the district choose to fill fewer seats?

A: A choice district must fill all of its approved choice seats if it receives enough student applications to do so.

Expanding or changing approved choice programs

Q: If an approved choice district adds new grades or a new program, or changes their admissions/eligibility criteria, must it submit another application to participate in the choice program?

A: Yes, changes other than number of seats in the approved grades require that the district resubmit a choice district application. The application is due by April 30 in the year prior to the school year in which the revised choice program will be implemented, and the commissioner will notify choice districts of the approval or disapproval of its application no later than July 30.

Choice District's use of the waiting list

Q: If a choice district loses a choice student after he/she has submitted an Intent to Enroll form and the enrollment data has been sent to the NJDOE (after Jan. 14, 2013), can the choice district fill that seat with another student from the wait list?

A: For a choice district to receive choice funding for a student, it must adhere to the  student application timeline and cannot add any additional choice seats after enrollment data has been sent to the NJDOE on Jan. 14, 2013. NJDOE uses the enrollment data to develop the state and districts' SY 2013-14 budgets.  However, if a choice district wants to add a choice seat after the enrollment data has been submitted, the choice school district may enroll a student as an unfunded choice student in the subsequent school year, and automatically convert the student's enrollment to a funded choice student the following year if he/she remains in the choice program. The choice district must use the waitlist and select the student according to the policy and regulations governing the development and use of the waitlist. The resident district is responsible for providing transportation or aid in lieu of transportation from the date it receives the application for transportation from the choice district.

If a choice seat becomes available after the enrollment data has been submitted to the NJDOE on Jan. 14 because a student has withdrawn his/her Intent to Enroll, the district may use its waitlist to replace those students, provided the total number of choice seats does not exceed the number submitted to NJDOE on Jan. 14.  The choice district must use the waitlist and select the replacement students according to the policy and regulations governing the development and use of the waitlist.

The choice district must send the transportation requests for all their enrolled students to the resident district by March 15, 2013, or as soon as the student has a change of address. If there are changes to the transportation needs of accepted students, the choice district must send any new/revised transportation requests to the resident district immediately so the district can seek bids. If a resident district receives a transportation request after the start of the school year, the district is not expected to seek bids and may offer aid in lieu of transportation to the student.

Accepting late applications

Q: Can choice districts continue to accept student applications after the application deadline (Dec. 7, 2012)?

A: Any applications received after the deadline (Dec. 7, 2012) but before the enrollment data submission deadline (Jan. 14, 2013) may be accepted by the choice district but will be eligible for enrollment only after any applicants on the waitlist have been accepted and if a choice seat is available. Choice districts will only receive funding for students included in the enrollment data submission on Jan. 14, 2013. If a choice seat opens up after the enrollment data submission deadline, the district may pull from their waitlist to fill the seat but may not accept applications received after Jan. 14 unless the commissioner has granted a student application deadline waiver to the applicant.

Resident district notification from non-public school students

Q: What must a student who is in a non-public school file with his/her resident district? Does he/she need to send a Notice of Intent to Participate or a Notice of Intent to Enroll form to their resident district if they apply to or are accepted into a choice district?

A: All Non-public and public school students must file the Notice of Intent to Participate with their current resident district by November 2, 2012. (Note that all New Jersey students who attend public schools in the state must be registered with their resident district, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:38-1, et seq., and N.J.A.C. 6A:22-1.1, et seq., so non-public school students intending to enroll in a choice district should register with their resident district by Feb. 11, 2013.) If the student receives a Notice ofConditional Acceptance in the choice program and sends the Notice of Intent to Enroll to the choice district, it is the responsibility of the choice district to send enrollment notification (simply copy the student's Notice of Intent to Enroll and forward) to the student's resident district by 2/11/2013. The choice district must also send the transportation requests for all their enrolled students to the resident district by March 15, 2013.

Student Application Deadline Waiver

Q: Can a student apply to attend a choice district after the application deadline of December 7, 2012, if the choice district agrees to accommodate the student and absorb the cost in the first year?

A: According to the NJDOE code (http://www.state.nj.us/education/code/current/title6a/chap12.pdf): "A choice student applicant may seek from the Commissioner by a showing of good cause a waiver of the student application deadlines." (See the Q&A below and fact sheet on the waiver process.)

Parents/guardians must request a waiver from the Commissioner; a choice district cannot, at its discretion, accept a choice student who applies after the application deadline.

Q: What constitutes "good cause" whereby a student may be granted a waiver from the application deadline from the Commissioner?

A: Waivers will be granted by the Commissioner only if there is a compelling reason. Waivers will not be granted for "convenience" reasons such as missing the application deadline. Please refer to the  fact sheet on the waiver process.

Enrollment of students who move from a choice district

Q: If a resident or choice student is enrolled in a choice district and that student moves, can the student stay in the choice district for the remainder of the current school year?

A: If a resident or choice student moves while they are enrolled in a choice district, the student decides if they will stay for the remainder of the school year. However, their status for the subsequent year depends on additional factors, such as the date of the move and whether they are a choice student or not. Please read the following FAQs.

Q: If a resident student is enrolled in a district that is a choice district and that student moves, can the student stay in the choice district? What are the processes that the student and district must undertake for budgeting and reporting?

A: In the case where a resident student moves out of a choice district during the school year, the parents/guardians of the student make the decision to remain in the choice district until the end of the current school year or move the student to the new resident district. The new resident district then becomes responsible for providing transportation for the student.

If a resident student is attending school in a choice district and moves to another district prior to the application deadline, the district must convert the student to a choice student in the subsequent year and will receive choice funding for that student.

If a resident student is attending school in a choice district and moves to another district after the application deadline, the choice school district makes the decision to allow the student to remain in the choice district as an unfunded choice student in the subsequent school year and convert the student's enrollment to a funded choice student the following year if he/she remains in the choice program. The choice district must adopt a board policy that defines if it will allow the student to remain in the choice district as an unfunded choice student in the subsequent school year and must post the policy on their
website and include in their Parent Information Center.

The following process should be used by a choice district that converts a resident student to a choicestudent:

  • The choice district must have documentation that the student has been converted to a choice student (the choice application with the appropriate revisions may be used for this purpose).
  • The student must register with his/her new resident district to let the district know that he/she is a resident of the district.
  • The choice district must notify the resident district of the student's conversion to a choice student.
  • The transportation request information for the student must be sent to the resident district as soon as the resident status changes and transportation services are needed.

Q: If a choice student is enrolled in a choice district and that student moves, can the student stay in the choice district the following year? What are the processes that the student and district must undertake for budgeting and reporting?

A: If a choice student is attending school in a choice district and moves to another district, that choice student is eligible to remain in the choice district as a choice student without application. The new resident district then becomes responsible for providing transportation.
The following process should be used:

  • The student must register with his/her new resident district to let the district know that he/she is a resident of the district.
  • The transportation request information for the student must be sent to the resident district as soon as the resident status changes and transportation services are needed.

District's commitment to participate in the choice program

Q: Can a district that has submitted an application as a choice district withdraw their application?

A: The district may withdraw its application up until July 30. By statute (http://www.state.nj.us/education/choice/law.htm), the Commissioner has until July 30 to notify a choice district of the approval or disapproval of its application.  After July 30, the NJDOE will publicize the districts' participation in the program.

Process for converting a tuition student to a choice student

Q: Does a tuition student automatically convert to a choice student? What is the process?

A: The tuition student does not need to file an application with the choice district. However, the choice district must include the student in their enrollment data submission to the NJDOE by 1/14/2013, and must send a  transportation request to the resident district by 3/15/2013. Tuition student should be registered with his/her resident district.

Tier 1 v tier 2 status for students entering kindergarten

Q: When is a student applying for enrollment in a choice program for kindergarten considered tier 1?

A: There are 2 categories of students that will be tier 1 when applying to a choice program for kindergarten:

  1. The student attended preschool school in his/her resident district for a full year immediately preceding enrollment in a choice district
  2. If no preschool exists in the student's resident district, the student has a sibling currently attending the choice district.

This policy is designed to encourage students in high poverty districts where high quality preschool is offered to attend preschool so they will be ready for kindergarten.

Choice districts may give preference among tier 2 students to those with siblings in the district.

Application process for students who are enrolled in a charter school

Q: What is the application process for students who are enrolled in a charter school?

A: If the charter school is located in the student's resident district, then the student is considered to be a resident of the district, or if it is a regional charter, the student is considered to be a resident if he/she resides in one of the regions.

Either the resident district superintendent or chief school administrator of the charter school should get the Intent to Participate form and fill out the Confirmation of Student Enrollment/Eligibility to Participate.

Handling preferences

Q: How are preferences handled in the application process?

A: Choice districts may establish polices granting preference to: 1. students with siblings enrolled in the choice district; 2. choice students from send-receive or limited purpose regional districts; or 3. resident students of the choice district who move during the school year and want to enroll in the choice district the following year.

Students granted preference may be put ahead of Tier 1 applicants and need not be entered into a lottery with Tier 1 applicants. However, if there are more 'preference' students than open seats, there needs to be a lottery of preference students.

Choice districts may give preference among tier 2 students  applying to kindergarten to those with siblings in the district.

If enrollment preference is granted, the following process should be used:

  • The choice student must fill out the choice application for the receiving school.
  • The choice district must notify the resident district of the student's enrollment by Jan. 14, 2013.
  • The transportation request information for the student must be sent to the resident district by March 15, 2013.

Interdistrict Public School Choice Program
New Jersey State Department of Education
P.O. Box 500
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0500

Email: pschoice@doe.state.nj.us