How To PCS-Proof Your Mil-Kid’s Education
Moving can be an exciting adventure to a new land, but there are bound to be some worries of what may lie ahead—especially for military kids, who move an average of 9 times before they graduate from high school. Being prepared beforehand can help keep some of those worries at bay, especially when it concerns your child’s education.
“The Compact” is an agreement between all 50 states, and the District of Columbia, designed to smooth the transition for military-connected kids as they move between school districts and states. However, the only way the Compact works to its full potential is if parents, teachers, and school administrators know exactly what it is and what it does. Too often, they don’t.
There are four key issues that often become an issue when your child transitions schools: enrollment, eligibility, placement, and graduation requirements. Here are a few things to know about some of the roadblocks you may encounter, and how the Compact can help:
- Kindergarten/first grade entrance. Children who were attending kindergarten or first grade in their previous school should be allowed to enter the same grade at the new school, even if they miss the new school’s cutoff age. Confused yet? Don’t be! The Compact protects your child’s placement if he or she already started kindergarten.
- Immunizations. Schools should enroll children immediately, even if they do not have all required immunizations. Sometimes immunization records may get lost during the move, and medical records could take a little longer to make it to your child’s new doctor. Thanks to the Compact, families have 30 days to get those documents to the school so that there’s no delay in their education.
- Records. To make the transition a little more seamless, schools should accept unofficial or hand-carried records rather than waiting to receive official records from the old school before enrolling the child. Just be sure to get a copy of your child’s records before you dis-enroll them.
- Placement. If a child was enrolled in a gifted program or other specialized program, the new school should place him or her in a similar program. The school has the option to test the child later to make sure they are placed appropriately. Keep in mind that different schools have different standards for their programs. If it’s possible, see what the criteria is for each program that your child would typically be in so you’re more prepared once you get there.
- Graduation. When possible, schools should waive graduation requirements if a child transfers during his or her senior year to ensure the student can graduate on time. Alternatively, the school can sometimes arrange for the student to receive a diploma from their old school as well.
The Compact was designed to help resolve most of the common issues military families face when their child transitions to a new school, but sometimes conflicts can still come up. If you don’t feel that your child’s school is following the Compact, contact your installation’s School Liaison Officer (SLO) as soon as possible. Best practice suggests that you contact your new SLO as soon as you receive orders to help get the ball rolling and get ahead of any potential issues.
Have you ever used the Compact to help your transitioning mil-kid? What do you feel was successful? Could anything use improvement? We’d love to hear about your experience!
Posted May 9, 2017