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A: A Tier 1 student must be enrolled in a NJ public school in his or her resident school district for the entire year immediately preceding enrollment in a Choice district. A student who attends public school in his/her resident school district but moves during the school year and attends public school in his/her new district of residence for the remainder of the school year satisfies the one-year requirement for Tier 1. Charter school students are considered Tier 1. In addition, students who qualify as homeless are considered Tier 1. If applying for kindergarten, a Tier 1 student must be attending his or her resident district's public and free preschool (see list of districts with state-funded preschools), a student who resides in a district that does not offer public and free preschool, and a student who has a sibling currently attending the Choice district.
Choice districts must first fill their available seats with Tier 1 students. If the number of Tier 1 applicants exceeds the number of Choice seats available, the Choice district must hold a lottery to randomly select students for enrollment and for the waitlist.
Tier 2 students include NJ residents who have not attended their resident public school for the entire year immediately prior to enrollment in the desired Choice district and do not otherwise meet the requirements for Tier 1.
Choice districts are not obligated to accept Tier 2 students. If a Choice district accepts Tier 2 applicants, they may do so only after all of the qualified Tier 1 applicants have been accepted. If the number of Tier 2 applicants exceeds the number of Choice seats available, the Choice district must hold a Tier 2 lottery to select students. Parents should contact their desired Choice district to find out if it accepts Tier 2 applications. Parents can find information on districts' Choice policies, including programs offered and number of seats available on the Department of Education website.
A: There are 3 categories of students that will be considered Tier 1 when applying to a Choice program for kindergarten:
A: Charter school students are considered Tier 1 in terms of their Choice district application status. Follow the regular application process.
A: Yes. The process is the same as it is for any choice applicant, except that there is additional flexibility for students who are displaced/homeless. Parents/guardians who want to enroll their child in the choice program may follow these steps:
Step 1. Contact choice districts to determine whether a seat is available. On this website, you can find a list of all participating choice districts, their contact information and a description of their programs. Choice districts must be contacted directly to get their application, and then the completed application must be submitted directly to the desired district.
Step 2. If a choice seat is available, the student may be enrolled immediately in the choice district, waiving the Oct 14 deadline for enrollment in the current school year.
If a choice seat is not available, the parent/guardian may apply for enrollment in the choice district for the following school year as a tier 1 student. The regular application process should then be followed: The student application deadline for enrollment in a choice district in 2020-21 is December 3, 2019, but some districts may choose to accept late applications. The student would then enroll in the school in their local attendance area, or if desired, a charter school, for the current school year.
A: Some choice districts may accept late applications after the application deadline of December 3, 2019, and up until October 14 of the current enrollment year. Late applicants may be added to the district's waitlist (if one exists) and may be accepted if seats become available, provided that the district does not exceed its approved enrollment maximum. Parents must contact the choice district to inquire about whether it accepts late applications. Visit the choice district locator to find information on all the participating choice districts in NJ, and then contact the Choice districts directly to inquire.
A: Yes, students may apply to a Choice district outside of their county of residence. County lines are irrelevant to the student application process.
A: Yes, students may apply to more than one Choice district. There is no limit on the number of Choice districts to which they apply. However, if accepted to more than one Choice district, a student may submit a Notice of Intent to Enroll to only one Choice district. Students cannot commit to more than one Choice district.
A: For applications submitted by December 3, students will begin in the Choice District in the 2020-21 school year. It is important to note the steps and timelines for this process to ensure that your child is eligible and applies in time. Read the timelines and steps for applying to the choice program.
A: Each Choice district prepares and provides its own Student Application. Contact the individual district to which you wish to apply to obtain an application. Find Choice district contact information on the Choice website.
A: By law, a resident district must be informed if a student intends to participate in the Choice program. If your student is currently registered with his/her resident district, you must complete the Notice of Intent to Participate form, submit it to your resident district by December 3, and get a signed receipt that acknowledges you submitted the form. If your student is not registered in his/her resident district, it is not necessary to submit the Notice of Intent to Participate form.
A: If your student has received a Notice of Conditional Acceptance and you decide to enroll the student in the Choice district, you must complete the Notice of Intent to Enroll form and return it to the Choice district by January 6, 2020. You can submit a Notice of Intent to Enroll to only one Choice district. You cannot commit to more than one Choice district.
Although we discourage Choice program applicants from changing their minds after they have returned the Notice of Intent to Enroll, there is no penalty for students who later decide not to participate in a Choice program or leave the Choice district after acceptance. There is also no restriction on students enrolling in their resident district at any time. We encourage Choice students to uphold their commitment and remain in their Choice district for at least one year.
A: A Choice program cannot discriminate in admission policies on the basis of intellectual aptitude, athletic ability, English language proficiency, status as a handicapped person, or any basis prohibited by State or federal law. However, if a Choice district limits admission to a special Choice program with a particular area of concentration, it may evaluate prospective students using enrollment criteria as long as such criteria does not discriminate between Choice and Resident students, is proven to be justifiable for the specific program, and has been approved by the Department of Education.
A: When a Choice district receives more applications than there are spaces available, the Choice district must hold a public lottery to determine which students may participate in the Choice program. The following processes are required:
A: Inquire with the Choice district to find out what application preferences are given. Choice districts may establish polices granting preference to: 1). students with siblings enrolled in the Choice district; 2). Choice students who have completed the terminal grade of a choice sending district (i.e., students who attend a choice district with grades that terminate before 12th grade and with a natural progression to another choice district); or 3). resident students of the Choice district who move out of the district during the school year but before the Dec. 3 application deadline and want to remain in the Choice district the following year, provided the student will enroll in a choice-approved grade/program and he/she meets any program-specific criteria and the district has seats available.
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 may be a lottery of preference students.
A: Inquire with the Choice district to find out what application preferences are given. Choice districts may grant preference to an applicant if a sibling is already enrolled in their Choice program, provided the applicant will enroll in a choice-approved grade/program and he/she meets any program-specific criteria and the district has seats available.
A Choice district may also grant sibling preference for siblings applying to the Choice program in the same year, in accordance with board policy, such that if one sibling applicant is admitted to the Choice program, his/her sibling will also be admitted, provided a Choice seat is available and he/she meets any program-specific criteria. If Choice districts develop a board policy granting sibling preference to new sibling applicants, they must devise a lottery that is fair and equitable and does not give increased chances for selection to those with siblings.
A district that selects one twin applicant for enrollment may provide a special preference so that both twins can be enrolled in the choice program. The district must have a preference policy for siblings applying to the choice program in the same year, which states that if one sibling applicant is admitted to the choice program, his/her sibling will also be admitted, provided that the district has a seat available in that grade and he/she meets any program-specific criteria. Please check with the Choice district on this policy.
A: There are currently no districts that have been granted Commissioner approval to limit the number of students that can apply to or enroll in the Choice program.
A: All Choice districts must establish and maintain a Parent Information Center that disseminates information about the Choice program and helps parents in submitting student applications for enrollment. The district must also post information on its Choice program on the district's website, including their application, the timeline and application policies.
A: Once a student is enrolled as a choice student by a choice district, that student can remain enrolled in that choice district until the terminal grade without having to reapply to the choice program.
A: All students who attend public schools in the state must be registered with their resident district, so non-public school students intending to enroll in a Choice district should register with their resident district by 1/17/2020. This is especially important if the choice student wishes to receive transportation services, which are the responsibility of the resident district. If the student submits a Notice of Intent to Enroll to the Choice district, it is the responsibility of the Choice district to send enrollment notification to the student's resident district by 1/17/2020. The Choice district must also send the transportation requests for all of their enrolled students to the resident district.
A: Late applications: Some choice districts may accept late applications after December 3, 2019 until October 14 of the enrollment year. Late applicants may be added to the district's waitlist (if one exists) and may be accepted if seats become available, provided that the district does not exceed its approved enrollment maximum. Parents must contact the choice district to inquire about whether it accepts late applications. Visit the choice districts locator to find information on all the participating choice districts then contact the Choice districts directly to inquire.
Exception to Late Application Policy:
Students who receive a waiver of the application deadline. When extenuating circumstances occur, the Commissioner may grant a waiver of the student application deadline, allowing a student to submit an application and be accepted to a choice program outside the timeline established by the Department of Education. Waivers will only be granted by a showing of "good cause" and when a student's educational conditions are such that an immediate transfer is needed. Waivers will not be granted for convenience reasons such as missing the application deadline. Typically, student enrollment must occur immediately upon approval of the waiver, however each waiver will be considered based on the specific circumstances of the student. Parents can request a waiver form by emailing the choice program office.
A: Transportation of Choice students is not guaranteed. If the cost of transportation will exceed $1,000, the parent/guardian may be given the option to pay the additional amount or to receive the $1,000 as aid in lieu of transportation. (Note: the transportation cost threshold is determined each year in the annual budget appropriations act, and therefore subject to change.) By August 1, parents/guardians should receive notification of their transportation options from the resident district. Ask your Choice district about the likelihood of your child receiving transportation from your resident district. For more information, read Choice School Transportation Procedures.
A: Information on all the Choice districts will be posted on the Department of Education website in the fall of the year prior to Choice student enrollment.
A: Information on the choice programs offered, including the policies, and number of seats available are posted on the Department of Education website.
A: No, Choice districts cannot recruit or encourage student enrollment based on athletic ability. Similarly, students cannot participate in a Choice program for athletic reasons. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) 30-day transfer rule for varsity athletes applies to Choice students as well as to other students attending NJSIAA-member districts. Visit NJSIAA to find their Constitution, Rules and Regulations.
A: The transfer policy of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) is meant to discourage the enrollment of students in the Choice program for athletic advantage. The NJSIAA has a student transfer policy that applies to students who transfer from one school to another for reasons other than a change of address. The chart below the NJSIAA transfer policy explains how it is applied to Choice students.
NJSIAA Transfer Policy:
NJSIAA Application of Transfer Rule
This is considered initial enrollment, not a transfer.
This is a transfer and the student is subject to 30 day sit rule, except if the student transfers back to his resident district.
A: The circumstances warranting rejection of an applicant who meets the eligibility requirements are limited, according to statute:
18A:36B-20 Applications by student to choice district.
A choice district shall not prohibit the enrollment of a student based upon a determination that the additional cost of educating the student would exceed the amount of additional State aid received as a result of the student's enrollment. A choice district may reject the application for enrollment of a student who has been classified as eligible for special education services pursuant to chapter 46 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes if that student's individualized education program could not be implemented in the district, or if the enrollment of that student would require the district to fundamentally alter the nature of its educational program, or would create an undue financial or administrative burden on the district.
A student whose application is rejected by a choice district must be provided with a written reason for the rejection in the Notice of Rejection.
The appeal of a rejection notice may be made by parents to the commissioner, through the Bureau of Controversies and Disputes. To learn more about this appeals process, read the Bureau of Controversies and Disputes FAQs. Read the code for controversies and disputes and the code for appeals.
A. As outlined in the statute above, a Choice district can reject an applicant who has been classified as eligible for special education services if that student's individualized education program could not be implemented in the district, or if the enrollment of that student would require the district to fundamentally alter the nature of its educational program, or would create an undue financial or administrative burden on the district.
A student whose application is rejected by a Choice district must be provided with a reason for the rejection in the letter of notice. The appeal of a rejection notice may be made to the commissioner, through the Bureau of Controversies and Disputes. To learn more about this appeals process, read the Bureau of Controversies and Disputes FAQs. Read the code for controversies and disputes and the code for appeals.
If the student is determined to need special education services after acceptance but prior to the start of the first school year in the Choice district and the district cannot implement the IEP as per statute 18A:36B-20, acceptance into the Choice program can be revoked.
Once the applicant has enrolled in the Choice district, the district is required to keep the student and ensure that the student's needs for special education services are met—just the same as it would for a resident student. Once the student has enrolled, and an IEP is developed that cannot be implemented by the Choice district, the district must follow the normal IEP process for out-of-district placement (see N.J.A.C. 6A:14-1, et seq.: 6A:14-2.7 for due process hearings, 6A:14-3.7 for IEP process and 6A:14-4.3 for program options).
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 regional high school to which the Choice district's resident students are sent?
A: Any Choice student who reaches the terminal grade level of the Choice school district either (1) returns to the resident district or to the resident district's receiving school if the receiving school has the requisite grade level; or (2) applies to and is accepted into another Choice school district with the requisite grade level. In this second scenario, when a Choice student needs to change school districts because he/she has completed the terminal grade, he/she must reapply to another Choice district with the desired grades. Students in the second scenario will be considered Tier 2.
However, if the Choice district where 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 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 its 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 the student wants to apply to another Choice district, the Student Application Timeline For The 2019-20 School Year and application process should be followed:
A: Tuition students of districts recently approved as Choice districts are automatically converted to Choice students with no need to file an application. (Conversion from tuition to Choice can only happen in the Choice district's first year as a Choice district.) However, the Choice district must maintain documentation of the student's changed status and the student must be registered with his/her resident district to be enrolled as a Choice student. If your child is not already registered, please contact your resident district for instructions on how to register and complete the process by the end of January.
A: The state pays the Choice district the local portion of its adequacy budget (called the "local fair share") in the form of "Choice aid," on a per pupil basis, for each Choice student. (The resident districts keep the local tax levy collected for students who "Choice out," so this funding stays in the resident district.) In year 2 and beyond, any state aid attributable to Choice students will also be paid to the Choice district. Transportation is provided by the resident/sending district.
Q: We live in a Choice district, and my child is enrolled in our public school. If we move to another district, can my child stay in our old resident Choice district for the remainder of the school year? What are the processes we must go through?
A: In the case where a resident student moves out of a Choice district during the school year and the student is enrolled in a choice-approved grade or program, the parents/guardians of the student have the option of keeping the student in the Choice district until the end of the current school year or moving the student to the new resident district. If the student remains in the choice district, the student becomes a temporary choice student for the remainder of the school year and the new resident district then becomes responsible for providing transportation for the student, in accordance with choice transportation procedures. However, if the resident student moves out of the district in the summer, when the student is not in school, then the Choice district has the option of allowing the student to stay in the Choice district for the upcoming year if there are available seats in the choice-approved grades/programs and the student meets any program-specific criteria. Contact the Choice district to learn about their board policy regarding student moves and to find out if there are any available seats.
A: It may depend on the timing of your move. Resident students who move before the application deadline of Dec. 3, need to apply for a choice seat in 2020-2021 just like other choice applicants. However, the district may give them enrollment preference and accept them ahead of other applicants, provided that there are choice seats available in the choice-approved grades/programs and the student meets any program-specific criteria. If the district has already reached its approved choice enrollment maximum, this preference will not apply. This enrollment preference policy should be clearly posted on the district's website, and the district needs to be contacted to find out if it has available choice seats.
Resident students who move after the application deadline of Dec. 3, may apply as late applicants for enrollment in 2020-21. The district may give special consideration to students in this situation by adding them to the front of the district's waitlist, provided the students will enroll in a choice-approved grade/program and they meet any program-specific criteria. No additional choice seats above the approved maximum will be approved by the NJDOE to accommodate these students. If the district has already reached its approved choice enrollment maximum, then the district cannot add them as choice students in 2020-21. Check directly with the district's Choice Parent Information Center, posted on the district's website, or the district's profile provided on the choice website.
A: A change of resident districts will not affect a Choice student's ability to continue in the Choice program. The new resident district will be responsible for providing transportation if your child meets the eligibility requirements (Choice district is within 20 miles of your residence). Immediately upon moving, you must register your child in your new resident district and inform the district that your child is in the Choice program. You also need to notify your choice district about your change in residence and ask them to submit the required transportation form to your new resident district if your child needs transportation.