Student Application Process for Choice Districts
STEP 1: Student Application Submission
To initiate the student application process, the parent/guardian obtains and submits a Student Application for Enrollment to the choice district(s). Each district supplies its own unique application for its choice program. A student application template is available to assist in the application development. All student application forms must be made available on the choice district's website. The information provided on the application will determine a student's enrollment category. Student applicants fall into one of three categories: Tier 1 or Tier 2, or those with special enrollment preference.
- To be eligible as Tier 1, a student must be enrolled in a NJ public school in their resident school district for the entire year immediately preceding enrollment in a choice district, and must be verified as Tier 1 by their resident district. Tier 1 students also include students in the following circumstances:
- Charter school students
- A student who moved during the year but attended the public school of both the old and new resident districts
- A student applying for kindergarten who is attending a state-funded (tuition-free) preschool in his or her resident district or a student who resides in a district that does not offer a state-funded preschool program. Most students applying for kindergarten are in Tier 1.
Choice districts must first fill their available seats with Tier 1 students. If the number of Tier 1 applications exceeds the number of choice seats available, the choice district must hold a lottery to randomly select students.
- 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 applications exceeds the number of choice seats available, the choice district must hold a lottery to select students. Choice districts must post on their website their choice enrollment policies, including whether or not they accept Tier 2 applications.
- Choice districts may give enrollment preference in the application process to students in the following circumstances (the district must post its enrollment policies on its website). Enrollment preference students will be given all available choice seats before Tier 1 students. If there are not enough choice seats for these students, the district may request additional seats through the Supplemental Choice data collection in December.
- Students who have siblings currently attending the choice district
- Choice students who have completed the terminal grade of the 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.
- Resident students of the choice district who move out of the district before the application deadline may be given enrollment preference (i.e., accept them ahead of other applicants, but after the enrollment preference students described above), provided there are choice seats available in the choice-approved grades/ programs and the students meet any program-specific criteria. If the district has already reached its approved choice enrollment maximum, this preference will not apply. For more information on policies for students who move, visit the website FAQs.
The application must be received by the choice district by December 3, 2020. See note at bottom regarding late applications.
Also by December 3, students siblings currently who are currently registered with their resident districts must complete the Notice of Intent to Participate form and submit it to their resident districts. (By law, a resident district must be informed if a student intends to participate in the choice program.) The resident district is not required to respond to the notification. Students who are not Tier 1 do not need to complete this step.
STEP 2: Application Review
The choice district must review all submitted applications.
Resident District Confirmation of Enrollment to Verify Tier 1 Eligibility:
The Resident District Confirmation of Student Enrollment is required only if the choice district will hold a lottery. The purpose of this form is to verify that the applicant students qualify as Tier 1 applicants in the Choice Program. The resident district must verify that each student was counted in its most recent October ASSA count and that each student is currently enrolled in the resident district. Once verified, the choice district will put these students into the Tier 1 lottery. The choice district must complete a Resident District Confirmation of Student Enrollment spreadsheet for each resident district from which it received Tier 1 student applications, listing each student's name, the school currently attending, and the current grade level. Students applying for kindergarten do not need to be included, since the resident district will not be able to verify their enrollment.
The Resident District Confirmation of Student Enrollment spreadsheets must be submitted to resident districts by December 7, 2020.
The resident district will confirm whether or not the listed student was counted in the current school year's ASSA data collection and whether or not the student continues to be enrolled in the district. This confirms Tier 1 eligibility.
NOTE: If a student moved during the year but attended the public school of both the old and new resident districts, both districts must be contacted to confirm enrollment during the respective time periods. These students are also considered Tier 1.
The choice district must determine which applicants will be accepted and rejected and if a lottery is necessary.
- If an application is rejected (see the associated statute for circumstances allowing for rejection), the district must inform the parent/guardian by December 21 with a Notice of Rejection that includes a reason for the rejection.
- If by December 3 the Tier 1 applications number no more than the seats available, the choice district must send a Notice of Conditional Acceptance to each eligible applicant. The Notice of Conditional Acceptance should include a Notice of Intent to Enroll Form for the parent/guardian to complete. The choice district must deliver the Notice of Conditional Acceptance to the parent/guardian by December 21.
- If by December 3 the eligible applications number more than the seats available, the choice district must conduct a public lottery for those grades or programs in which the number of applications exceeds the number of available seats. The results of the lottery will determine which students will be accepted as choice students for the following school year and which students will be placed on the waiting list.
Lottery (if applicable):
- The parent or guardian of each child who has submitted an application must be informed of the date and time that the lottery will take place.
- Upon completion of the lottery, each participant in the lottery must be assigned a number reflecting the student's place on the list of accepted students or on the waiting list.
- Upon completion of the lottery, the choice district must send to the parent or guardian of each student who has been accepted for enrollment into the district the Notice of Conditional Acceptance and a Notice of Intent to Enroll Form. These must be received by the parent or guardian by December 21.
- Upon completion of the lottery, the choice district also must notify the parent/guardian of each student placed on the waiting list as a result of the lottery. This notice must include information about the student's position on the waiting list and must be received by the parent or guardian by December 21. A template waitlist form is available for districts to use.
Here are two examples of different types of lotteries that districts may choose to use:
- Group lottery: Applications for all grade levels are combined into one group lottery. Students' names/numbers are drawn randomly and seats are filled according to the grade-levels of the applicants and the seat availability in the grades. A waitlist is created for all applicants whose names/numbers are drawn after the seats have been filled.
- Tiered or grade-level lottery: One or more grade levels are given priority in the lottery process. For each grade-level that is given priority by the district, a separate lottery is held. In other words, all applicants for the same priority grade-level are pooled and names are randomly drawn. Once available seats for the priority grade are filled and a waitlist is created, another lottery for the next priority grade level is held. Once all priority grade level lotteries have been held and waitlists are created, the remaining applications for the non-priority grades levels can be grouped into a group lottery.
STEP 3: Notice of Intent to Enroll
Accepted students must complete the Notice of Intent to Enroll Form and return it to the choice district by January 6, 2021 or as soon as possible after notification of acceptance by the choice district.
Each resident district must be informed if any of their resident students are participating in the choice program. The choice district must send a copy of each student's Notice of Intent to Enroll to the respective resident district by January 15 or as soon as possible after receipt to serve as notification.
STEP 4: Enrollment Data Submission to NJDOE
To receive the correct amount of choice aid funding for choice students, the choice district must inform the Department of Education of its projected choice enrollment for 2021-22.
Submit the enrollment data to the Department of Education by January 22, 2021. This enrollment is final and cannot be adjusted after this deadline. If accepted students decline the offer to enroll in a choice program (by not sending in the Notice of Intent to Enroll Form by Jan. 6) and the district selects students from a wait list, this process must be completed by January 22 in order that an accurate final enrollment count can be submitted.
STEP 5: Transportation Requests
The resident district is responsible for the transportation of all eligible choice students. Visit the transportation procedures for more information. The choice district must send to the resident district the School Choice Application for Transportation Services for those choice students who want transportation services in the upcoming school year. If the student is currently in the terminal grade of his or her resident district, the request for transportation is sent to the receiving school with which the resident district has a send/receive agreement because it will be responsible for the student's transportation (as this is the school the student would have attended if he/she did not attend the choice school).
The transportation requests must be received by March 15.
This completes the student application process!
Late applications: Districts may accept late applications after the December 3 deadline until October 14 of the current enrollment year, however, no new applicants can be enrolled above the district's approved maximum enrollment for FY2022 (with the exception of students who receive a commissioner approved waiver of the application deadline). Late applicants can be considered for enrollment only after those who applied before the deadline.
If, after the NJDOE data submission deadline of Jan. 22, 2021, any accepted choice students decide to drop their acceptance, the district may replace their seats with students on the waitlist, including students who applied after the December 3 deadline -- provided late applicants are considered after those who applied before the deadline.
After the FY2021 NJDOE enrollment data collection on January 22, 2021, no additional choice seats can be added, with the following exception:
Districts that accept a student with a waiver of the application deadline may enroll the student at any time and may exceed the district's approved enrollment maximum. A student who is granted a waiver will be given priority over any waitlisted students. Parents can request a waiver form by emailing the Choice Office. If the acceptance of a waiver occurs after the NJDOE data collection and results in the district exceeding its approved enrollment maximum, the seat will be unfunded in FY2022, but funded thereafter.