Editor’s Note: During COVID-19, the registration and transfer process for school year 2020-21 may look different from previous years. The registration period for students who will be new to Unit 4 is May 1 – June 12, 2020. At this time, transfers between schools for current Unit 4 students will not be addressed unless “extenuating circumstances exist relating to safety, physical needs, or siblings.” See the Unit 4 news release from 5/1/2020.
By Jason Brown
For parents with current children transferring into Champaign Unit 4 Schools, the month of May is vitally important to mark on the calendar.
Unit 4 is scheduled to host registration for the 2020-21 school-year students transferring from outside of the district and from private placement during the entire month. Parents may also request a transfer from their current school within the district during this time.
Before registering at the Center for Family and Community Engagement (702 S. New St., Champaign), here is what parents of children in grades 1-5 need to know. (Note: Unit 4 kindergarten registration information is over HERE.)
- Failure to request a new school assignment during the transfer period will result in the student remaining at their current school for the subsequent academic year. “If you don’t submit a transfer for that month of May, you are not eligible for a transfer for the upcoming school year,” said Orlando Thomas, Director of Achievement and Student Services.
- Students who are new to the district, however, may complete an application upon arriving to the community.
- Transfer assignments will be made once programmatic needs have been met.
- Assignments for registered transfer students will be announced in June for a July (balanced-calendar schools) or August (regular-calendar schools) start to the school year.
- New students who transfer to the district must enroll in the assigned school for the assigned seat within three days after notification of such assignment by the Family Information Center.
- If students have a change of address during the school year, parents may request a transfer for such students to a different school with available seats or such students may remain in the same schools.
How does the transfer process work?
“Same school year” transfers will be processed in accordance with the Schools of Choice assignment policy on a first-come, first-served basis at the Family Information Center.
Once registered, whether a student is transferring into the school district or from private placement, the district uses a computer system to process applications.
“Transfers are placed into the lottery computer assignment,” Thomas said. “The goal of Schools of Choice is about diversity and maintaining diversity within our campuses. And so in our district low SES (students with low socioeconomic status) is about 54, almost 55 percent. The goal is for no student to be 15 percent below that mark of 40 percent, and no school to be above that mark.”
For example, if 20 students wanted Bottenfield, and Bottenfield had a high percentage of low SES students, then the algorithm would be run to accept some of those students from higher SES status to stay within those boundaries.
“That is the goal,” Thomas said. “To keep all of those campuses between that 40 and 70 percent as it relates to low SES, and the computer system knows the demographics of each campus, and as those transfers come in and as we run those algorithms, that is how those assignment are assigned for people who have put in for those transfers.”
What determines placement?
Seating for new students and transfer students is based upon where open seats reside within the elementary schools for the upcoming school year.
Applicant information is entered into a database, and each applicant is assigned a random ID number by the computer.
The computer assignment process is based on seating availability and Schools of Choice guidelines in which algorithms determine placement on three factors.
- Siblings – Preference will be given first to siblings, foster children, and minors residing in the same residence with their guardian.
- Proximity – Every student has a proximity school. For many families it is a school or schools within 1.5 miles of their home. If a student does not live within 1.5 miles of an elementary school, they will be given proximity to their designated closest school as determined by the district’s transportation system. Proximity is applied to the applicant’s first choice only.
- Socioeconomic Status Guidelines – Socioeconomic Status (SES) is determined by a student’s eligibility for free and reduced price food services. Eligibility shall be determined by the income eligibility guidelines and family-size income standards set annually by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and distributed by the Illinois State Board of Education.
“Those transfers are previewed, and we have to look at all the programmatic needs first,” Thomas said. “So say we have 15 people who wanted to transfer into a building and that building had five slots with students with IEPs (Individual Education Plan), so that number of 15 then would go down to 10, because we would have to have slots for those students with IEPs. So the programmatic needs of all of the campuses always take priority in regards to the transfers.”
Are there transfer wait lists?
Families who do not receive their first choice during the computer assignment process will have their student placed on a computer-generated waiting list for that school.
“If for some reason you don’t get your first choice in that transfer period, you can opt to remain on the waiting list for that school, and that waiting list lasts for the entire semester,” said Thomas. “If a parent did not get their first choice they can remain on the waiting list from May 31 until the semester ends, which is at the end of December, and there is usually quite a bit of movement as people get their assignments back. Some people like their choices. Some people don’t. People move. A lot of transitions happen.”
When students on the waiting list are offered a seat, their parents or guardians must notify the Family Information Center within 24 hours if the student will take the available seat.
The waiting list will remain in effect until the last scheduled attendance day of the first semester.
The superintendent may authorize exceptions to those guidelines on a case-by-case basis for good cause.
“We never make any guarantees about the process, but we do want for people to be completely informed about the process,” Thomas said.
Questions about registration?
Unit 4 soon will have more information about May registration for transfer students on its website here.
“We have already started advertising it, and as that time gets closer we will have a lot of things on social media,” Thomas said. “It’ll be on the district website, letting parents know that timeframe.”