A Back to School Checklist: How to Enroll Your Child in Public School

Whether your child is starting school for the first time or you have moved to a new school district, you will need to enroll your child in school.  Federal, state and local laws all influence the requirements for enrolling a child in a particular school district.  However, there are some common things that most school districts require for all new students.

The Paperwork

Before you assemble the paperwork with which you will enroll your child, it is important that you call the school district superintendent’s office.  They will be able to tell you what school your child is eligible to be enrolled in based on your residency and they will tell you whether you should enroll at the principal’s office or a central admissions office for the school district.

Typically, you will be required to bring the following paperwork with you:

    Proof of Residency.  The school district will want to make sure that you live in the town or city in which you are seeking to enroll your child.  Your driver’s license or a utility bill will usually suffice to prove residency.

    Birth Certificate.  The school district will want to confirm your child’s age and make sure that he or she is placed in the right grade.

    Previous transcripts.  If your child has been in another school district, private school or homeschooled in the past, then the district will want to see a transcript or other documentation of schoolwork successfully completed so that they know which grade the child should be in upon enrollment.

    Immunization records. State laws require that students have specific immunizations in order to prevent the spread of disease.  Your child’s pediatrician can provide you with the necessary documentation.

Special Circumstances

Sometimes, special circumstances exist that make providing the required paperwork difficult, if not impossible.  The law does provide for exceptions to the requirements in certain limited circumstances.  Two of the most common exceptions concern residency and immunization requirements.

1.  Residency Exception. The federal McKinney – Vento Act provides certain protections to homeless children.  Homeless children are defined as those who lack a fixed, regular and adequate residence.  The definition of homeless is broad and includes children who are living with extended family due to times of economic hardship or loss of housing, those who are in public shelters and those who are living in cars or campgrounds.  Children who are covered by the Act are entitled to be immediately enrolled in either the school district where they are temporarily living or the district in which they were enrolled prior to becoming homeless (school of origin).

2.  Immunization Exception.  Some states provide an exception to the requirement that the student receive the required immunizations if there is a sincere religious belief that prevents the child from getting the immunizations. 

Starting to attend school in a new school district can be very exciting.  It is important that school districts are explicit about the enrollment requirements and that parents understand and comply with the requirements so that students can begin school as quickly as possible.


For more information about enrolling in public school, contact an education law attorney today.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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