How To Switch Schools: Open Enrollment and Intradistrict Options


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Last Updated on August 20, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Sometimes students are just not at the right school, but their parents like the school district they live in and want to keep the students in it.  There are district processes in place to achieve this goal, but certain requirements must be met.  Some options available to parents include open enrollment or filing an application for intradistrict (within district) transfer per school district policies.

Open Enrollment

What is school district open enrollment?  This is a process where a student living within a school district can opt to attend any school in that district.  All a parent needs to do usually is return the relevant forms, listing their top choices for schools.  

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Parents need to follow the procedures for open enrollment and intradistrict transfers which will involve paperwork.

All school districts are supposed to have an open enrollment process for students, and the only argument to not have one could conceivably be that there is only one school in the district or all their schools are overenrolled, aka impacted, and will remain so.  Most districts will have some space and will need to hold an open enrollment process.  

When Does Open Enrollment Occur?

The school district open enrollment process usually happens early in the calendar year (e.g. at the beginning of 2021 for a fall 2021 student transfer).  Due dates for student submissions vary by school district.

Student Attendance Priorities

Certain student attendance priorities will apply.  For example, open enrollment cannot cause the displacement of students who want to attend their school of residence (for example, the student lives in that school’s boundaries).  After the student who reside in a school’s area are placed, other students with priorities should be placed. 

Priorities can exist for siblings of a student already in attendance and/or as outlined in school district policies.  If there end up being spaces and too many students fighting for those spaces, an unbiased student lottery should occur.

Intradistrict Transfer

If the open enrollment deadline time has passed, and a parent wants to transfer a student to another school in their school district, the parent can pursue an intradistrict transfer. 

What is an intradistrict transfer?  It is a transfer to another school WITHIN the same school district. This is different from an interdistrict transfer, which is between two different school districts.  

Intradistrict Transfer Deadlines?

There may be deadlines to apply for intradistrict transfers, but many districts accept requests outside the timelines as well, depending on the reasons for the request.  If the regular timeline can be met, that is a good idea.

Board Policies Rule the Intradistrict Transfer Process

The rules related to these transfers will be outlined in school board policies, usually found on most school district websites under a tab titled “School Board” or “Board of Education,” or by contacting the school district office.  There may be a place on a school district website referencing student intradistrict transfers and requirements to obtain one.

Most districts outline certain parameters for the granting of intradistrict transfer requests such as the new school having a program not at the school of residence, the school where the student resides being persistently dangerous, a court order, bullying, or the mental health of the student, among other possible student transfer bases.  

Other Ways To Transfer

Students who are in special education may be transferred without ever applying via this process, if their IEP (Individualized Educational Program) team places them due to services needed at a particular school.

Sometimes an involuntary intradistrict transfer may be imposed on a student who has committed a harmful act and/or agreed to by their parent to avoid a school expulsion.


Student rights, transfer, expulsion and special education lawyer Michelle Ball assists parents with transfer filings and appeals within a school district and at county boards of education. As a student transfer and attendance lawyer in Sacramento California, Michelle Ball can help families throughout California, in places like Fresno, Roseville, San Clemente, Tahoe, Antelope, Vallejo, Susanville, Barstow, and many other towns.