The orders were just handed down, and your family is moving this summer. In the past, it might have just been you and your spouse making the transition. But this time, you have a school-aged child or two (or more) in tow…
This can be a complicated process, but if you get a jump start on everything it can go smoothly.
First things first: contact your local School Liaison Officer (SLO)
This person is an expert in working with schools to help military children, and their office offers a wealth of resources and information. Every branch of the military employs at least one SLO at each major base.
The next step: contact your current school
It’s best to inform the school in writing as well as in person/on the phone. Let them know that you will be moving and give them an estimated date when your child(ren) will be withdrawing from school. At this time you should request that a copy of ALL records pertaining to your child be made available to you on their last day of school OR when final grades and state/district assessments have been posted. While your copy will not be the official copy, you should always have a copy just in case.
In your records (and those forwarded to the next school) should be:
● a copy of the current school schedule
● report cards for all grading periods completed at the school
● attendance reports, state/district/other standardized tests
● current academic placement (IEP, gifted/talented, ESOL, etc.)
● records pertaining to extracurricular/sports/volunteer/service organizations (JROTC, Key Club, Honor Society, etc.)
Your copy of the records is vital to the transition process
It’s especially important to obtain all records and testing data pertaining to special academic placements, like gifted and talented, special education, or English learning programs. As per the Military Interstate Children’s Compact, all public schools in all 50 US states must honor the academic placement of the sending school until the receiving district’s testing either confirms or alters the placement. This means that if your child is in a GT program in Virginia public schools, North Carolina public schools must place your child accordingly.
For students receiving special education services due to an IEP or 504 Plan, their services should continue in a similar format. However, it is important to note that services might not be identical (Student A gets 15 hours of pull-out in District 1, but 10 when he moves to District 2), but comparable or similar in nature and intent. Districts do typically re-test students to create their own paperwork trail and account for any unforeseen changes in the child, or errors in the previous assessments.
After alerting the school office, contact the teacher(s)
Teachers will be some of your best resources during PCS season. With the advent of Common Core, many states have similar standards and many teachers are familiar with one or more states’ standards. This is helpful if you are moving mid-year, since your current teacher might be able to provide you guidance about topics to cover while you are moving. Even over the summer, teachers might be able to suggest games, apps, books, and activities to help lessen the effects of natural summer regression (when students lose a few weeks worth of academic content knowledge) at the new school.
If your child is in a special program, like a gifted track, in honors courses, on a school team, or participating in school government, or if your child is in/transitioning to high school, teachers and coaches can also provide letters of recommendation and introduction to the receiving school. Having a letter from a teacher or coach helps the new teacher or coach to understand your child a little better and place him/her appropriately in the activity or class.
As your PCS gets closer, remind everyone of what you need
This is especially true at the end of the school year. Things can get a little crazy come late May and June. Teachers are slammed with final paperwork, eking out those last few moments of teachable time, and prepping their classroom to be packed away for the summer. The school administrators and secretaries are helping to file grades and test scores, close up the health clinic, and plan for next year.
So you need to speak up early and often. Remind the principal, or his/her designee, that you need a hard copy of your child(ren)’s cumulative file and what should be in it. You should also remember to request that an official copy be forwarded to the next school. Speak to the teacher about any letters of recommendation or summer activity suggestions that have been promised but not yet received.
At this time, you should also note the address and contact information for the school you are leaving. When you reach the next duty station and enroll in school, your new school will need to contact your current school for that official cumulative record.
At the new duty station, there are a few more items to complete
Once you arrive and select a school, you will need to enroll your child(ren) in school, either for the current year or for the next academic year. To do this, you generally need to visit either the central district office or the main office of the specific school itself. Either way, you will need to bring the following documents:
● Student birth certificate
● Student social security number/card
● Student shot records
● Legal documents pertaining to custody (if applicable)
● Proof of residency and military orders
● IEP/504 Plan (if applicable)
Once enrolled, your new school, or in some cases you, will contact the old school to have the official cumulative record sent via mail.
You will also need to verify that your child is appropriately placed based on the academic placement and program at the sending school. Check to make sure that all classes and support services are accounted for and being provided consistently and correctly. One way to do this is to request a copy of your child’s personal schedule. Another great option is to ask to meet the classroom teacher(s) and any support staff — like PT, OT or paraprofessionals — involved in your child’s education.
Are you getting prepared for a PCS? Get organized with the 2016 AHRN.com PCS Toolkit
We want to know:
What are your biggest concerns with transitioning your child to a new school?
Thank you Marguerite Flanagan for lending your expertise to AHRN.com! Since 2009, Marguerite has specialized in educating military children and students with special needs. Through MilKids Education Consulting, Marguerite is dedicated to providing relevant, authentic, and easy-to-implement education solutions.