What Is Open Enrollment in Colorado?

Since 1994, Colorado families have had the option under state law of enrolling their children in any traditional public school or public charter school in the state, as long as space is available. If the school is outside either the attendance area or the district where a family resides, the family usually is responsible for getting their child to and from school. State funding follows the child to the school of choice. A family might want to participate in open enrollment for a variety of reasons. Among them:

  • if their neighborhood school doesn’t meet their children’s needs
  • if there is a school with an appealing model elsewhere
  • if staff and leadership at a particular school appeals to the family
  • if there is a higher-performing school outside the immediate attendance boundary
  • if a family feels more confidence in the leadership of a district other than their home district

Navigating Open Enrollment:

  • What is a charter school?
    • A charter school is a public school operated by a Charter Management Organization, group of parents, teachers and/or community members as a semi-autonomous school of choice within a school district, operating under a contract or “charter” contract between the members of the charter school community and the local board of education. Charter schools in Colorado can also be authorized through the state’s Charter School Institute.
  • Who is taking advantage of open enrollment in Colorado?
    • More than 16 percent of Colorado’s public school population – more than 145,000 students — “choice in” to a traditional public school other than their assigned school. Another 115,000 students attend public charter schools.
  • What steps should parents keep in mind as they prepare for open enrollment? Steps might vary slightly from district to district. But generally:
    • Determine which districts interest you, and visit their open enrollment pages.
    • Make sure you have all required documentation, including immunization records, proof of home address, birth certificate, and the name of the previous school
    • Call the district or visit website to determine start and end dates for their open enrollment period
    • Find out where to obtain and drop off enrollment forms
    • If your student plans to participate in high school varsity athletics, read the CHSAA rules regarding limitations on participation for students who transfer schools.
  • How should parents determine the best school fit for their child? Many ways of doing this. Among the most important are:
    • Do parents and child prefer a more traditional approach or alternative approach to learning (project-based, Montessori, Waldorf, etc)?
    • What is most important to parents and child in a school environment – school and class size; discipline and dress code policies; technology; emphasis on social-emotional as well as academic learning
    • What does data show about school achievement scores, academic strength?
    • Are parents deeply involved in the school and does school leadership invite and welcome parental involvement?
    • What kind of enrichment/extracurricular activities does the school offer?

For additional resources to help with open enrollment and school choice, visit our partners at GreatSchools.org

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