Parents now have more choices on where their child goes to school in Hamilton County.

The school district announced an open enrollment program that will go into effect next school year, affecting many schools.

The move to open enrollment in many schools may come as a surprise to some, but school board member Tucker McClendon says it has been in the works for months and the plan was approved last week. 

“I think it's a great opportunity for kids that want to go out and explore other opportunities they may not have at their zoned school and this opens that up for them,” said McClendon.

McClendon says for now, this prevents the district from having to build new schools. Instead, they hope to boost enrollment at about 21 schools that are considered under-utilized.

“They are anywhere to 65 percent to about 80 percent under-utilized so it won’t affect their zoning at all,” said McClendon. “If we can get those percentages up to 90 percent it makes financial sense. We won't have empty space there.”

McClendon says overcrowding won't be an issue, and students already zoned for those schools will not be impacted.

“Those seats are already factored in there. The principals will have the power to say we have this many seats open and kids won't be kicked out of their schools.”

Parents will be able to apply for their school of choice. Then it will up to the school's principal to accept or deny their application. The student's behavior, attendance and grades will factor in their decision, but the school board will oversee the process.

Parents will have to provide transportation if their child is accepted into a school outside of their assigned zone, at least for now.

“That is a missing piece that we have in Hamilton County,” said McClendon. “With a district this large it's a big problem and I think the school board is going to look at in the future. We just sent out an RFP for transportation for next year.”

McClendon says they hope to copy the success of Rivermont Elementary School, county-wide. It started open enrollment in 2017.

“I think it makes perfect sense and I applaud Dr. Johnson and his team for the work they've done on this.”

The school district will host school fair and meeting for parents to ask questions and learn more about their options.

Here is a list of scheduled dates:

January 2019

  • Jan. 14 - Magnet Schools Fair
  • Jan. 15, 16, 22, 23  - Magnet Schools Open House Events at the schools
  • Jan. 31 - Magnet Schools applications close

February 2019

  • Feb. 1 - Applications for Future Ready Institutes, Early College and Open Enrollment Schools open
  • Feb. 23 - Magnet Schools placements announced
  • Feb. 19 - My Future Schools Fair for Future Ready Institutes, Early College and Open Enrollment Schools
  • Dates TBD - Open House for Future Ready Institutes, Early College and Open Enrollment Schools

March 2019

  • March 15 - Applications for Special Programs and Open Enrollment Schools close

April 2019

  • April 1 - Special Programs and Open Enrollment Schools placements announced
  • April 1 - Hardship Applications open

Magnet School applications are currently open and will close on Jan. 31, 2019. Families can apply for magnet schools here. Applications for Future Ready Institutes, Early College and Open Enrollment Schools will open on Feb. 1, 2019.