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New School? Here are 6 Things to Remember

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Perhaps your family moved (as if that weren’t stressful enough…). Or perhaps you just needed a new academic venue. Either way, going to a new school with its unknown polices and procedures can be tough. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you follow these simple rules:

1. Investigate before you move

This may be a challenge for some families, depending on how soon you have to move. However, calling the new school in advance to get all the information about transferring credits, graduation requirements, etc., can save a world of disappointment. Some school districts may not be able to accept certain courses or tests that are needed for the new graduation requirements.

2. Make an appointment

Call ahead of time to make an appointment to register. Most school employees do not work in the summer and most schools have abreviated summer schedules. Do not assume that walk-in appointments are accepted. In order to accommodate new student enrollments and less staff, the majority of schools schedule appointments during the summer.

3. Take all pertinent documents

Report cards, transcripts, test scores, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Section 504 plans, Gifted, and/or English as a Second Language (ESL) program paperwork. Schools need it all. Documentation is the best way to guarantee that students get placed in the right courses, the correct programs and receive the best instruction. Failure to bring proper documentation can result in placement tests; unnecessary meetings to confirm that special services are being continued in the new school; or improper credits or repeat courses. All of these things can result in delays in registration and possible schedule changes after the opening of school.

4. Check graduation requirement conflicts

There is no nationwide curriculum, standardized testing or policy when it comes to graduation requirements. All school districts offer different types of state tests and different courses. It is extremely imperative that you check to see if your credits or past courses are transferable.

Some states have very strict requirements that must be met by all transfer students, such as: higher-level math courses, specific state history courses, health and PE requirements, community service hours, experience with online courses, financial literacy and/or passing a certain number of state assessments, just to name a few.

Also, some schools have five or seven bells a day. Some have A/B schedules. Some have 4-by-4 block schedules, etc. This can affect how many total classes you have acquired versus how many you need to graduate from your new school.

Last, be sure that you received a final grade in all your classes from your last school. Your new school cannot grant credit for classes that were taken at your old school. So, if you are missing a class or credit, that may jeopardize the total number of credits needed to graduate.

5. Be open to different courses

Unfortunately, your new school may not have the same foreign language, the same art or music or electives as your old school. It may not offer virtual courses or many AP courses. However, it may also offer more variety than what you had. Either way, this is a great time to try something new.

6. Have your custody documents in order

Be sure to check the custody laws in the state where you are moving, particularly if the move is to live with a noncustodial parent (relative, former neighbor, family friend). Some states will accept a power of attorney. In some states, the new guardian has to have custody granted by a court. Without the legal permissions, a school district cannot and will not be able to enroll the student without the custodial parent being present.

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Written by Tracy Jackson, PhD

Dr. Tracy Jackson has been a school counselor since 1997 with experience at the elementary, middle & high school levels. She earned her PhD in Counselor Education & Supervision from Old Dominion University where she is an adjunct professor. As Coordinator of Guidance Services for Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Tracy oversees the comprehensive school counseling programs for 85 schools & works with over 170 school counselors. Her blog provides resources & information to school counselors.

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