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Open Enrollment Information Sheet


What is Open Enrollment? 

  • Open enrollment allows Arizona students to attend a public school outside of their regular attendance area, if there is space. (A.R.S. § 15-816.01). 
  • Open enrollment is generally tuition-free. 
  • Open enrollment requires students to complete an application and be granted admission; there is no guarantee of acceptance. 

How Do I Apply for Open Enrollment? 

  • The application process varies by district. 
  • Find open enrollment policies and applications on school district websites or ask the school district administrative personnel for a paper copy of the policy and application. 
  • Complete the school district’s application for open enrollment. 
  • If the school district requires it, complete the general enrollment paperwork and provide information and supporting documentation (such as your child’s immunization records and proof of residency). 
  • If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan, you may be required to provide a copy to the school district. The school district uses the IEP or 504 plan to determine if there is room in the program that would be the best fit for your child. 

When Can I Apply for Open Enrollment? 

  • Check the school district’s open enrollment policies. The policies must be easily accessible on the homepage of the school district’s website in English, Spanish, and any other language used by a majority of the populations served by the district.    
  • While some schools have deadlines to submit applications, other schools may accept applications on a rolling basis. 
  • Keep in mind that some districts require open enrollment students to reapply every year – check with your specific school district to verify whether this requirement applies. 

How is Acceptance through Open Enrollment Determined? 

  • Check the school district’s website for the school’s capacity and whether the school is currently accepting open enrollment students. This information should be listed by grade level and, if applicable, by specialized program. School districts must update this information at least once every 12 weeks.  
  • Acceptance depends on school capacity and the capacity of the specific program/placement your child needs. 
    • School districts may consider various factors in determining whether a particular school or program has the capacity to accept students, such as class size, physical facilities, staff availability, student/teacher ratios, and service provider capacity. 
    • The general rule is that if a school has capacity, it should permit open enrollment. If the school does not have capacity when you apply, your child’s name should be added to a waitlist until the school has capacity and, if necessary, conducts an equitable selection process (such as a lottery). 
  • A school district may give enrollment preference to, and reserve capacity for: 
    • children who reside in the district; 
    • returning students; 
    • siblings of students who are enrolled in the school district; 
    • children currently attending a school that is closing; 
    • children of persons who are employed by or at a school in the school district; 
    • foster children and unaccompanied youth. 
  • Open enrollment is a year-to-year decision. A school may choose not to extend open enrollment acceptance for the next school year if it no longer has the capacity to serve an additional student. 

Can I Appeal A Decision to Deny Open Enrollment? 

  • If your child’s open enrollment application is rejected, the school district should explain its reason for the refusal. Generally, refusals are only permissible if: 
    • the school is at capacity, or 
    • the student has a history of expulsion or is in the process of being expelled (A.R.S. § 15-841(C)). 
  • If you believe a school district had the capacity to serve your child but still rejected your child’s open enrollment application, consider taking the following actions: 
    • Ask for an explanation of the decision to reject your child’s application. 
    • Ask the school district to provide you with its open enrollment policy to ensure the policy was followed in your child’s case. 
    • If you have only communicated with a particular school, ask district-level staff or a governing board member for an explanation. 
    • File an Open Enrollment Complaint with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). 
  • If you believe your child’s application was rejected for discriminatory reasons, consider taking the following actions: 
    • File a complaint with the school district’s Section 504 coordinator. 
    • File an Open Enrollment Complaint with ADE. 
    • File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. 

How Does Open Enrollment Impact Students with Disabilities? 

  • A school’s or district’s capacity for students with disabilities may be limited, particularly if the students’ IEPs or 504 plans require they be educated in certain types of placements.  
  • If you believe the school denied your child open enrollment due to disability discrimination (and/or membership in another protected group such as race, gender, or national origin)—rather than due to a lack of programmatic capacity or other permissible reason—you may consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. 
  • Generally, school districts are not required to provide transportation to open enrollment students. However, the district must provide transportation for students with disabilities who reside outside the district if transportation services are required by the student’s IEP.  
    • The transportation obligation is limited to 30 miles each way from the school to the student’s pick-up/drop-off location.  


For more information about Arizona’s open enrollment laws and policies, see: 

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