Being the new kid is always a challenge. Changing schools mid-year can present a different set of challenges altogether. Sometimes during mid-year PCS season, military children tend to feel that everyone else already has their friends, knows the layout of the school, the teachers, and their schedules. That can be a little overwhelming. Add to that a military-connected student with an IEP or one that is taking high school level courses and a mid-year PCS can stress everyone out. Here are some tips to make sure the school situation is squared away should your military family ever face this inevitable PCS reality with your military child.
3 Tips for Changing Schools Mid-year
Get Paperwork Together
PCS season is full of paperwork, so this tip should come at no surprise. Make sure you have all pertinent records—report cards, transcripts, and special needs accommodations documentation—ready and hand-carried. This is especially important when you are dealing with high-school transcripts. You can request records prior to withdrawing for your child’s current school. Many times there are time constraints that come with a mid-year PCS that you don’t experience in the summer, so having official documents in your hands can minimize the headache of going back and forth between the schools.
For high school-aged military-connected students that have taken advanced placement or honors courses, it is also advisable to have a course description from the sending school as different states offer varying courses. For those students that have special needs, all pertinent documentation such as IEP paperwork, eligibility for EFMP services such as speech or occupational therapy, and all specialist clinical notes should also be hand-carried during a PCS. The most efficient way to ensure that your child gets placed in the correct courses, or gets access to needed resources is to have documentation on hand.
Learn About the New State’s System
Fifty states and an overseas school system means you can’t possibly know the details about every state you may move to. But even before you get orders, be sure to become knowledgeable about your child’s rights and resources to protect those rights. The Interstate Compact for Military Kids was signed into law in 2009. Some schools will indicate that because they uphold the “Every Student Succeeds Act” they’re also in compliance with the Interstate Compact, however, we know that is not always the case. Each state has adopted its own verbiage of the “Interstate Compact,” so double check prior to enrolling your child.
Military Childhood Education Coalition is an invaluable source of information regarding the Impact, and their website provides parent education on the topic. Prior to arriving at your duty station be sure to contact the region’s School Liaison Officer as they can often provide resources specific to the schools and districts to which you will transfer. For state-specific information on the compact visit the military interstate children’s compact commission’s website.
Involve Your Child
One way to help with the struggle of changing schools mid-year is to get involved in the planning. This gives them a way to contribute and may help them look forward to a move. Once you have hard orders it’s time to plan! Do you have a soccer star, a STEM kid, a child who loves to sing and dance? Search for the schools in the area that have excellent after-school programs, winning sports teams, or just a diverse student population that would make any military-kid feel at “home”.
Check out the school’s website and social media pages. Some even have YouTube channels. The internet can provide a way to get familiarized with the school or community before even arriving. You can talk about the other exciting and family-oriented things there are to do at your new duty station. Your children will follow your lead, so try to keep positive, even if you are not able to find the information you want.
When we teach our kids to turn a challenge into an opportunity, we thrive as a military family. Preparing all documentation and anticipating possible hiccups in the process eases some of the stress of feeling overwhelmed. Educating ourselves about the rights of military-connected students and the resources available to them eases the stress of wondering if your child’s educational needs are being met properly. A little planning and intention can go a long way for your mid-year PCS peace of mind.
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