Is the School of Origin Always in the Best Interest of a Student?

Is the School of Origin Always in the Best Interest of a Student?

November 8, 2023

First, let’s define “school of origin.” Typically, school of origin refers to the school that a child is attending or enrolled in when they experience a change in their living situation. When it comes to transportation accommodations, these changes usually mean that a student has moved to a new, often temporary, address due to homelessness or foster care placement, but students can switch to another school for other reasons too.


Student Circumstances that Could Lead to a Change in School

A child might be far from their school of origin for a number of reasons, including:

  • A change in residence due to relocation, change in parent’s employment, etc.
  • Homelessness
  • Foster care placement
  • Safety concerns
  • Special education services
  • School of choice

It’s essential to consider a student’s unique circumstances when evaluating why a child is now outside of their school of origin boundaries. In some situations, efforts may be made to provide transportation or other support to help the child continue attending their original school. For example, children experiencing homelessness may qualify for transportation under the McKinney-Vento Act. Or students in foster care or commuting to their school of choice may benefit from transportation in small-capacity vehicles.

The question of whether the school of origin is always in the best interest of a student is greatly dependent on the child’s circumstances and needs. As district leaders, there are seven questions you can ask to help you determine whether the child’s school of origin is the right choice for them.


7 Questions To Ask When Determining If School Of Origin Is The Right Choice

  1. Stability: Remaining in a student’s school of origin can provide stability during trying times in a student’s life. Ask yourself, will stability benefit this child?
  2. Educational continuity: Will changing schools disrupt the student’s academic progress or hinder meeting the student’s goals?
  3. Connection: Will the child’s relationships with teachers and peers be disrupted and will that change impact their well-being?
  4. Proximity: If the school of origin is far from the student’s new residence, they’ll spend a lot of time commuting. Is this a practical choice? How will it affect the child’s family relationships and ability to complete their homework?
  5. Transportation: If the student lives in a new district or a hard-to-reach area, can alternative student transportation be secured to drive the student to and from the school of origin? Will that help reduce their ride time?
  6. Educational needs: Does the child’s new living arrangement require education services or support that the school of origin cannot support that their new school can?
  7. Starting fresh: Will the child’s emotional well-being benefit from building new relationships in a new school and starting fresh?

Ultimately, the determination should always be made in the best interest of the child and account for their unique needs and specific circumstances while prioritizing their safety, well-being, and education.


Stakeholders to Include When Making a School of Origin Determination

The determination of whether the school of origin is in the best interest of the student is a collaborative endeavor. Consider including the following stakeholders:

  • Parents or Guardians: Parents or legal guardians who are actively involved in the decision, can offer invaluable insight. They have the right to make educational decisions for their child, and as they work with relevant professionals to make an informed choice, the child benefits.
  • School Districts: School districts play a critical role in the determination and can offer guidance on safety, student transportation, and education needs.
  • Teachers: Teachers are a great resource to offer insight on the student’s needs and how their well-being and relationships may be impacted if moved to a new school.
  • School Counselors: School counselors can offer a new perspective on the child, their needs, and the desires of the child’s family.
  • Social Workers/Child Welfare Agencies: If the student is in foster care or another situation that involves a child welfare agency, social workers will be beneficial contributors.
  • The Student: Consider asking the student their opinion. Put yourself in the student’s shoes. What are they going through? What are their thoughts on staying at their school or going to a new one?
  • Courts (if applicable): Courts may be involved in the event of legal disputes.

It’s crucial for all stakeholders to work collaboratively and prioritize the student above all else.


It’s Always About the Student

Overall, there are many considerations to take into account when determining if school of choice is in the best interest of the child. Including key stakeholders with varying experience and a united goal will provide clarity and guidance in the determination. Ultimately, the best interest of the child is the guiding principle in making this decision while keeping their safety and well-being in mind.

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