It's Time to Register for Kindergarten!
Thought registering for VPK and Preschool was a process? Remember the relief you had when you secured your child's spot in preschool? You patted yourself on the back because your child would indeed be learning her abc's and 123's in the best preschool. Well, where has time gone? Your child will be entering kindergarten in the fall and you'll be starting the search from square one. Well pull up your big mommy and daddy pants again because if you haven't started the process to get into kindergarten yet, you're already behind schedule. I know! Its insanity! Moms of yester year were just required to go to their local elementary school and sign their children up. Not anymore sister!
In my mind, I refer to this process as the 'Duval Hustle'. A hustle because, darn, did I hustle through a LOT of tours, a LOT of applications, and hurry to follow dates and days from Duval County Public Schools (DCPS). Duval County staff was kind enough to answer many questions that I asked many times to be sure I was getting this process down pat and make sure I didn't mess it up…like I did VPK - mom fail! I would never describe myself as laid back, but instead somewhere in the median of mom mode. Well, this process definitely made me tap in to my inner tiger mother. Luckily, I'm through the process now and all that craziness has allowed me to provide you a breakdown of what you need to do next or do just to start the process. There still is time, but girl, gets to hustling!
What are the options?
For Duval County, there are four types of schools in which your child can attend for VPK and elementary school.
1. Your Zoned School: The easiest way to register for school, just sign up your child for the school in which you are zoned. Since it is close by, and if it is an A school and feel like it is a good fit for your child or children, this might be the way to do. I do suggest you take a tour. You can see tour dates on the individual school websites. Most schools require you sign up in advance so go ahead and give them a call. All I have to say about this is, you lucky dog you!
2. Magnet Schools: As of right now, this is the most time sensitive application. So if you are getting a late start on this process, focus on this one should be first. Magnet schools focus on a specific theme or interest. These can range from Spanish Language to Montessori to Science to Academically gifted. From my research, these seems to be the most difficult to get in to. It is a lottery system (literally, you will feel like you really won the lottery if you are one of the chosen few to get in) and you get points depending on your family situation, school in which you are zoned, and if you do or do not go on a tour. You will DEFINITELY want to go on a tour of these schools and several are going on right now. You not only get a better feel for the school, but you get extra points in the lottery by doing so. Once you have completed your tour, you will have the choice of either completing an online application or a paper application. Paper applications and printed online applications will have to be turned in in person, downtown at the Duval County Public School administration building. Otherwise, you can submit them online. You will be able to rank up to three schools in this process. The due date for all Magnet applications is February 27 and you can turn them in any day between 9am to noon, in person at DCPS Administration lobby. I handed in mine the first week it was open and there was a line so plan accordingly or call ahead.
3. Duval Choice Special Transfer Option: All elementary and middle schools are considered Duval 'Choice' schools. You will see and hear this process referred to as both Special Transfer (which is the name on the actual application) or the just 'Choice' process. Just always make sure this is clarified when asking questions as the entire school application process (magnet, special transfer, charter, etc) is also referred to as the 'Choice' process. Similar to magnet schools, each school has a unique theme designed to attract students. It basically gives all Duval County residents a choice to attend an out of zone school that isn't necessarily a magnet program.
This process requires a special application as well. The Choice Application or Special Transfer Option Application will be available online and in person at DCPS Administration building on April 1, April Fool's Day. The irony is definitely not lost on me. Unlike Magnet programs, you can only choose one school through the special transfer option. While I suggest a tour to meet the staff and see if the school fits, this isn't necessary to apply. You will not get extra 'points' for doing this. However, a different type of hustle is required for this one, getting the principals signature from your local/zoned school will give you bonus in the lottery.
Also, if your child already has a sibling attending the school be sure to mark this on the application. While you are allowed to request a special transfer to any school of your choice, if that school is already full to capacity, that school will not accept any choice applicants. I would suggest either going on the tour or contacting the school you are interested in and asking if they currently have room and if they believe they will for the next school year. Another thing to noodle over is that the lottery for special transfer is done based on the number of 'choice' seats the school decides to offer, not the demand of students. I know, too much noodling! The deadline for Special Transfer Applications is May 15 and again, you can do this online or in person at DCPS Admin building downtown. Do NOT turn your application in at the school.
4. Charter Schools: A Charter School is a public school that operates under a performance contract or 'charter' with Duval County Public Schools. They offer language charters, science and technology based charters, and more. These options increase choice for parents within Duval County. This process, while typically more straight forward, does require you to check each separate charter school website for tours, online applications and application deadlines. Each of these schools has a different process. A full listing of Charter Schools can be found HERE. You will have go to each school's individual website for more information.
Whew, a lot to take in right? And certainly a LOT of hustling for mom and dad. Although the process can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time registering for Kindergarten or new to Duval County, it does provide parents with a lot of choice. You can really find a school that fits your child and then cross your fingers and toes hoping to get in. The most important website for you doing this entire process is https://www.duvalchoice.com/, but check it frequently in case dates change or are updated. Also, Duval Choice will be holding information sessions on February 11 and April 14 from 6:30-8:30pm at the DCPS Administration Building. Please call and confirm these dates. Here is the full listing on important dates from the Duval Choice website: http://dcps.duvalschools.org/Page/7489. Embrace your inner tiger mother, get your hustle on and good luck!
Guest Blogger: Stephanie Siejka Anderson