Schools & Districts
Students generally attend the neighborhood school in the school district where their parents live, however parents/guardians may request a transfer to a different school or consider other attendance options. All school districts in Sonoma County have adopted local policy and criteria for accepting or denying transfers.
There are two types of transfers: “intra-district,” which is a transfer to another school within the home district, and “inter-district,” which is to a school in another district. Each district sets its own policy and regulations regarding transfers, so it is important to check with your local district for specific requirements. There is no guarantee that a request for a transfer will be granted.
The law allows parents to apply to enroll their children in any school in their local district. Each district establishes school attendance boundaries, sets school enrollment limits, and determines how many openings are available for transfer students. If there are more requests than there are openings, the district must use a random, unbiased selection process for granting transfer requests. Children who live in the school’s attendance area have first priority and cannot be displaced by transfer students. The district is not obligated to grant a transfer, and there is no statutory right to appeal if a transfer is denied. Parents are responsible for providing transportation for students on intra-district transfers.
- Intra-District Transfer Forms: Available at district offices
The law allows parents to apply to have a child transferred to the district in which their place of employment is located. The district is not obligated to grant the transfer request, but cannot deny it on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, income, academic achievement, or other arbitrary reason. An employment-related transfer can be denied if it would cost the district more to educate the child than the government provides. A district of residence can also limit the number of students transferring out under this law. An employment-related transfer will be renewed automatically each year as long as the parent is employed within the district boundaries. Parents are responsible for providing transportation for students on employment-related transfers. There is no statutory right to appeal if a transfer request is denied.
District of Choice Transfers
Senate Bill 680, signed into law in 2009, extended the District of Choice program until 2017. This law allows, but does not require, a school district to become a District of Choice. Districts of Choice specify a set number of openings for transfer students and make selections based on a random, unbiased process. If the number of transfer applications is more than the stated number of openings approved by the district’s governing board, a drawing is conducted at a regularly scheduled board meeting. A District of Choice must give priority to students with siblings already attending the district. Families interested in this kind of transfer should check with the district to see if it is a District of Choice.
A District of Residence can limit the number of transfers out of the district if a negative budget certification exists or if such transfers would affect its ability to meet the standards and criteria for fiscal stability.
Other Inter-District Transfers
The law also allows a school district to enter into an agreement with one or more other districts to allow for inter-district transfers between those districts, even if none of the districts have elected to be a District of Choice. The districts may specify the terms and conditions for allowing transfers. Parents can request a particular school, but the district makes the final determination. If a transfer is approved based on childcare needs, a K-6 student will not be required to re-apply for the transfer each year, provided the student continues to receive childcare in the district. Parents are responsible to provide transportation for a student on an inter-district transfer. If either district denies a transfer request, that decision may be appealed to the Sonoma County Board of Education.
- Other Transfer Forms (known as Inter-District Attendance Permits):
English version (pdf) | Spanish version (pdf)
Other Attendance Options
Charter schools are independent public schools, designed and operated by educators, parents, community members, and others. Charter schools must admit all students who want to attend, subject to the provisions of their charter, enrollment limits, and any admission requirements. Charter schools are not governed by district or neighborhood boundaries. Students may attend any charter school within their home district or outside their district. Approval of the district of residence is not required to transfer to a charter school in another district.
- Charter Application Forms: Available at the charter school
Independent and Home Study
Although students generally attend the neighborhood school in the school district where their parents live, there are a few legal alternatives to regular public school attendance. Charter schools and private schools are two educational alternatives. In addition, independent study, sometimes referred to as home study, and private tutoring provide legal exemptions to the compulsory school attendance law.
- Parents interested in home schooling should review this memo:
Legal Alternatives to the Public School Classroom (pdf)
- Kristen Johnson, Agency Outreach Coordinator