Switching schools can be challenging enough, but a school district transfer can be even trickier—especially if your child has an IEP. You want to make sure the new school district has the necessary information to provide the supports your child needs.
Under the federal special education law IDEA, all public schools must provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for kids with disabilities. But not every school district provides special education services in the same way. The rules for eligibility and delivering services to students can vary.
Here are steps to take when transferring school districts.
Notify your current and future school district of your plans in writing.
Typically, you need to let your child’s current school know you’re changing schools. Ask the principal for the appropriate form. You also need to contact the new district to get information on how to register your child for school.
In most districts, kids attend the school that’s zoned for their home address. But many larger school districts allow parents to choose which school their child attends. In that case, you need to contact your new district to learn about its policy on choice and how to register your child. (There might be an application process or lottery.)
Request and review your child’s school records.
In the process of changing schools, the new school will receive your child’s educational records automatically. But you may want to request to see the records and check for inaccuracies before they get sent.
Be sure to check for outdated material on your child’s records. For example, there may be a disciplinary problem from a few years ago. You may want to write a letter to the new district to explain the incident. Or you could request that your current school take it off the record entirely if it was an isolated incident.
It can also help to gather any additional documentation the current school may not have that you’d like to share, such as private evaluations.
Talk about how the district will proceed with your child’s IEP.
If your child already has an IEP and you move to another school district in the same state, your child’s new school has a choice. It can either accept your child’s current IEP or develop a new one. To develop a new IEP, the school district has to go through the standard IEP process.
Until the new school decides what to do, it must continue to give your child services “comparable” to those in your current IEP. The services might not be exactly the same, but they have to be similar. (Learn more about what happens to the IEP if you move to a school district in the same state, a new state, and other scenarios.)
Talk to the new district about any pending special education services.
If your child was in the process of being evaluated when you moved, make sure the new school district knows that. You can also request an evaluation from your new district if the process hadn’t yet begun. (Download a sample request letter.)
Identify the new district’s IEP coordinator.
Every public school district has a staff member who coordinates IEPs. Check the school website for the coordinator’s name and contact information. If you can’t find it, ask the principal.
Introduce yourself to the coordinator.
In a letter to the coordinator, describe your child’s strengths and hobbies, as well as services that have worked in the past. Be sure to mention activities your child enjoys, like science club, choir or a sport.
Learn about your new district’s disciplinary policies.
Sign your child up for activities your new district offers.
If your child enjoys certain extracurricular activities at his old school, find out if your new school district offers them too. Getting to participate in a favorite activity can help your child feel comfortable in the new environment more quickly.
You may also want to explore Parenting Coach for tips to help your child with making friends, fitting in, and other challenges that can come with switching schools.