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Open enrollment nuts and bolts

Published February 2014

In preparation for the March 1 Open Enrollment deadline this year, the Iowa Department of Education is issuing a press re-lease to the media to highlight this statutory deadline to parents. To prepare districts for this release here is a rerun summary of the duties of school districts that receive late-filed open enrollment applications.

The information below indicates which district takes action:

OE filed on or before March 1: Receiving district takes action
OE filed after March 1: Receiving district takes action
OE filed after March 1 and alleges pervasive harassment or severe health need: Resident district takes action
Regardless of when OE filed, resident district has a diversity plan: Resident district takes action

Notification – Districts must notify parents of open enrollment deadlines, transportation assistance, and possible loss of athletic eligibility for open enrollment of students by Sept. 30 of each school year. Notification shall also be provided to any parent/guardian who transfers into the district during the school year. It may be helpful to provide information more than one time during the year.

Board/superintendent action – The local school board may give superintendents the authority to approve, but not deny applications. If the applicant files under good cause, the board must act within 30 days of receiving the request. The receiving district will notify the resident district and the parent within 15 days of board action to approve or deny an application.

Denial - In order to deny OE based on class size of general or special education classrooms, the district must adopt an "insufficient classroom space" policy and review this policy annually. A district can deny an application based on insufficient classroom space, lack of appropriate program (a district does not have to hire additional staff to accommodate an OE applicant), or if a student will be under suspension or expulsion at the time of enrollment.

Rescind – A district can rescind an application due to a change in the student’s program that cannot be accommodated by the district without hiring additional staff or due to an increase in enrollment that exceeds a class size policy. An OE cannot be rescinded based on discipline or attendance.

Late filed applications – the receiving district has an obligation to deny applications filed after March 1 unless the application meets good cause (see question # 10). The resident district does not have authority to act on an application filed after March 1 unless the applicant claims harassment or severe health need.

Harassment/Severe Heath Need/Diversity Plan – In the case of applicants that claim harassment or severe health need, the resident district has the authority to approve or deny the application.

District Appeal Process - A resident district may appeal a decision of a receiving district’s board to approve a late-filed enrollment request to the director of the Iowa Department of Education. If the resident district believes that a receiving district has approved a late-filed OE re-quest without good cause, the resident district may, within 15 days after the board action by the receiving district, follow these procedures: 

  • Submit an appeal to the director of the Department of Education.
  • The director, or director’s designee, shall attempt to mediate by telephone the dispute to reach approval of both parties.
  • The director, or designee, shall conduct a hearing and hear testimony from both boards (and designees).
  • The director shall render a decision within 10 days following the hearing. 
  • The local school board may appeal the director’s decision to the State Board within five days of the decision.

Visit the Open Enrollment webpage.

Recent open enrollment decisions
Here are two open enrollment appeal decisions pertaining to pervasive harassment and serious medical conditions that were decided by the State Board of Education.

In Re: Open Enrollment of Kali B., 26 D.o.E. App. Dec. 383 (2013)

In Re: Open Enrollment of Samantha H., 26 D.o.E. App. Dec. 373 (2013)