Are you a parent with children, new to the Philadelphia area? One of the first concerns for any parent when they move is where your children will attend school. The School District of Philadelphia makes it easy for parents to register their children for school for the first time, but parents should do some pre-planning. If you are not familiar with the area, it may be a good thing to sign a short term lease with Philadelphia apartments rather than buying a house that may not be in the school district you are looking for. Researching what your neighborhood schools are, planning for transportation to school, and making sure your child has the proper supplies before school starts are all necessary to make sure that the child’s transition to a new school goes smoothly.
Whether a family is moving across town, or across the country, the School District of Philadelphia includes important information for parents and children. The website includes a map (or you can find one here), so you can determine whether your home or apartment is actually located in the Philadelphia school district, or surrounding districts. The website also has what are called school profiles, which give detailed information (such as demographics, location, violence reports, and test scores) for each school. Using this basic information, you can determine which neighborhood schools serve their area, and the quality of that neighborhood school. You should also be sure to check out the Philly School Search Start Here page for a lot of good information on getting started in the school choice process for public, private, or charter schools.
School registration occurs at the neighborhood school. If you are unsure of which neighborhood school serves your home or apartment, you can call the District’s Ombudsman Call Center at (215) 400-4000. Registration is generally done during regular school hours — from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the elementary schools, and 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the high schools. The high schools generally have extended hours for registration (from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) a few days before the regular school year starts. For exact dates, you can consult the District’s website or call the Ombudsman’s office. If your child is a high school student, they should accompany you to registration, so they can select classes they would like to take.
There are some basic documents that you will need when registering your child for school. You will need a document as proof of your identity. This can include a driver’s license or state issued ID, valid federal, state or municipal employment photo ID, or passport. You also need a document which proves that you are a resident of the district. Several documents are acceptable, including: a current utility bill, a current voter’s registration card, a signed and notarized apartment lease or notarized residency affidavit signed by the renter and the landlord, or a deed. A document proving your child’s age must be shown (which can include a birth certificate, passport, immigration documents, or baptismal certificate), as well as immunization records and your child’s report card (if you child has attended school before). If you child has one, their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) should also be brought to registration.
Parents can request to have their child attend a school other than the neighborhood school, either for cause or without cause. If you simply prefer that your child attends a non-neighborhood school, you must plan ahead. Applications for voluntary transfers are available between September and the first Friday of November for the NEXT school year. Although children can attend any district school, each school’s primary responsibility is to the children in their neighborhood school area. If there is no space available at a neighborhood school, voluntary transfer applications may not be approved.
Students who are in grades 1 through 6 and live more than 1.5 miles from a neighborhood school, or students in grades 1 through 8 whose route is considered dangerous by the Philadelphia Department of Transportation may qualify for free transportation to school. For elementary school children, this is generally done by a school bus which picks the child up at their house or apartment. For students in grades 7 through 12 who live 1.5 or more from school, they may qualify for a pass to use public transportation for free during school hours. If your child is a special education student, you should contact your child’s school to see if they qualify for free transportation.
This post was written and provided by Martha Keagan who is a full time mother, freelance writer / blogger and also a part time real estate agent. Keagan recently helped two separate struggling families move into apartments in Philadelphia for half the rent payment they were paying for the home rental.