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How to Apply to a Public District Elementary or Middle School

How to Apply to a Public District Elementary or Middle School

First-Time Registration

In Philadelphia, children must enroll in school by the age of 6. For fall enrollment, a child must be age 5 by September 1 to begin Kindergarten at a public school. New students should register at their designated neighborhood school during the two weeks prior to the start of school, usually during the last week of August and the first week of September. If you are interested in enrolling at a neighborhood school other than your designated school, you should start that process a full year before your student will begin Kindergarten.

You have to register to attend a Philadelphia public school if your student is:

  • A new resident of the city
  • Transferring from a private, Catholic or other public school
  • A Kindergarten student who did not preregister in the spring

Visit the district’s website for the list of documentation needed to register a new student.


Transferring Between Neighborhood Schools

Through the school district’s Elementary/Middle School Selection program, you can apply to transfer a child out of your designated neighborhood school and into another public school. Students in grades K through 7 can request to move to another neighborhood school, a citywide school or a special-admissions middle school.

Students can apply to attend any neighborhood school, but space for those not living in the assigned zone is often limited, and selection is made by lottery. Parents and guardians should be aware that few students are admitted to high-performing neighborhood schools through the transfer process, so it is best to have multiple options. According to the district, preference is given to students with a sibling currently attending the school.


Citywide- and Special-Admission Schools

Some district public elementary and middle schools do not have an assigned neighborhood zone; they are open to any student living in Philadelphia. This is also the case with many public charter schools. Students are selected by lottery to attend such schools.

Special-admission middle schools, sometimes called magnet schools, have entrance requirements. Students are selected based on attendance, behavior, grades and standardized test scores. Some schools require an interview or audition (for arts-focused schools). Keep in mind that these schools are competitive and some receive thousands of applications every year, so it is important to do your research on each school and to have backup choices.


The Application Process

To transfer between neighborhood schools or to apply to a citywide- or special-admission middle school, complete the district’s Elementary/Middle School Selection form available online here. You can find complete instructions for the new online process in the application toolkit in the middle of this book. You will be able to list up to five schools in preference order on the application.


The deadline to submit the district Elementary/Middle School Selection Application for the 2021-2022 school year is November 21st, 2021.

For more information, call the Office of Student Enrollment and Placement at 215-400-4290.

More information

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