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Resident or Not - That is the Question

Every year superintendents struggle with the question of whether or not a student is your resident or not your resident. You all do a great job of applying the law and the residency matrix to the facts and circumstances of each student.  Here are some questions to ask a parent at the time of enrollment that will help determine if a student is your resident or not.  It is best to ask these questions at the outset to make sure you do not get a different answer from the parent after you have denied their residency.

Resident – Under Iowa Code section 282.1, a student must be a resident of the district in order to be enrolled in the district.  A “resident” for school purposes means a child who is physically present in a district, whose residence has not been established in another district by operation of law, and who meets the following conditions:

1)    Is in the district for the purpose of making a home and not solely for school purposes.
2)    Meets the definitional requirements of the term “homeless individual” under 42 U.S.C. §11302(a) and (c).
3)    Lives in a juvenile detention center or residential facility in the district.

NEW! OR Is domiciled with the child’s parent or guardian who is on active duty in the military service of the United States and is stationed at and resides or is domiciled within a federal military installation located contiguous to a county in this state. The parent or guardian of a child who meets the requirements may enroll the child in a school district in a county in this state that is located contiguous to the out-of-state federal military installation. However, the parent or guardian is responsible for transporting the child without reimbursement to and from a point on a regular school bus route of the district of enrollment.

Questions to ask:

1)    What is your address?
2)    Do you live at that address?
3)    If they have more then one residence, for example a second home – Which residence do you claim for tax purposes as the primary home?
4)    Do you have proof of residency at that address?  This can include a lease agreement, purchase agreement, utility bill, mail with the address on it.  
5)    Do you have another residence where you live on nights or weekends?  If so, where? With who?
6)    Are you living at the residence for purposes of making a home?
7)    Are you living at the residence so you can attend school in the District?
8)    If a student is not living at home – Why aren’t you living at home with your parents?  Do you go home on the weekends?
9)    Is the living situation temporary or permanent?
10)  If a family is building a home in the district but does not yet reside in the district – when will you be moving into the new home?

A student who lives in your district and meets residency requirements is your student.  If they are not your resident they may pay tuition into your district or apply for open enrollment into your district before the March 1 open enrollment deadline.  If the open enrollment application is late under Iowa Code Section 280.18 both the resident district and the receiving district can agree to the late filed open enrollment if they choose to.

Examples, Answers, and Explanations

Example 1:  A family lives in District A and attends a parochial school in 2018–2019. The family withdraws from the parochial school due to a financial hardship. The five children live at home with mom and dad but spend most of their time at their grandparents’ home in District B due to childcare and work schedules for the parents. Are the children residents of District A or District B? Does it make a difference that the family has a financial hardship?

Example 2:  A student who’s family lives in District A has decided to move in with his girlfriend in District B. The student wants to live with the girlfriend due to family issues at home and not to attend school in District B. Is the student a resident of District A or District B? Would it make a difference if the student wants to live with his girlfriend to attend school in District B? Once the student turns 18 does that make a difference? The students legal guardians are his parents – does that make a difference in the residency determination?

Example 3: A senior student who will turn 18 during the new school year had 504 Plan last year.  The school the student was attending was not implementing the plan to satisfy the parents. The parents missed the open enrollment deadline and are paying tuition to send the child to another district. The parents inquire whether once the student turns 18 if the student can establish his on residency in the new district so the parents no longer have to pay tuition and the child can attend school there. The parents would like the student to have the best education possible in the new district. 


Example 1 – Since the children have an established residence with the parents in District A, District A is their district. It does not make a difference if the parents have suffered a financial hardship. The family would have to apply for open enrollment to District B or pay tuition.  Guardianship is not a consideration. 

Example 2 – Since the student is living with the girlfriend for family reasons and for reasons other than attending school in the district the student is a resident of District B. If the student had answered that the reason for the move was to attend school in the District, then District A is the students resident district. The students age does not factor into the residency determination. Guardianship is not a consideration. Please also consider that the student may be considered an unaccompanied minor under McKinney Vento and thus could attend either the sending or receiving district. Be sure to check with your homeless liaison.

Example 3 – The student has an established residency with his parents. Even when he turns 18 if he establishes another residence in the other district for the sole purpose of attending school there, he would still be a resident of the district where his parents live. If the student was establishing his own residence to make a home and not just attend school this would change the interpretation. 

See also our Residency Chart.

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on September 28, 2022 at 7:28am.