What is the right timeline for doing a school search? How early can you start, and what can you do if you get a late start? In this guide, we will break it down in stages, explaining what steps to do in the year leading up to your child’s first day at their new school. Our goal is to help you know what to expect in the school search process and show you tools to guide you towards enrolling your children in high-quality schools that are the right fit for their needs.
When to Start a School Search
The first question to ask yourself: “When would my child start at their new school?” Most schools in the San Antonio area start in mid-August, as you can see from our school calendars guide. Working backwards from that date, one year ahead is a good time to start a school search.
For example, this month, August 2023, is a great time to start a school search for a child who would be starting kindergarten in August 2024. Speaking of kindergarten: In Texas, your child needs to turn five years old by September 1 to be eligible for kindergarten at a public school (including traditional public schools and charter schools).
What if your child’s first day of school is more than a year away? You can still start your research process. You’ll have more opportunities to visit schools and learn about your child’s needs as you watch them develop. However, in Texas, charter school waiting lists don’t carry over from year to year, so there’s no purpose in applying extra early.
What if your child’s first day of school is less than a year away? You’ll still follow most of the same steps, but you’ll need to more quickly from step to step. Getting a late start to a school search may mean that some of your first choice schools are fully enrolled, and there is a greater chance that your child will be placed on a waiting list. Don’t give up hope! Waiting lists keep moving, and schools keep making offers even after the school year starts.
Twelve Months Before Starting
In our example, for a student starting a new school in August 2024, a family would take these steps starting in August 2023.
- Use research tools like the School Choice Guide on the San Antonio Charter Moms website to learn about the school choice landscape.
- Make your shortlist of schools, filtering down by factors such as location, grade levels served, school quality, learning model, and transportation.
- Make your own impressions by attending School Discovery Days and visiting schools for information sessions and school tours.
- Join the San Antonio Charter Moms discussion group on Facebook for advice from fellow parents and caregivers.
Ten Months Before Starting
In our example, for a student starting a new school in August 2024, a family would take these steps starting in October 2023.
- Start submitting applications; find links in the School Choice Guide and enrollment guide blog posts for each school or network.
- Research dates for open enrollment so you know when to submit an application. The typical open enrollment period is from November through February, but some schools have dates that are earlier or later. Applying after the end of open enrollment means your child is more likely to be placed on a waiting list.
- Keep asking questions about the schools you are interested in. You can contact the schools directly and connect with families in the discussion group.
Eight Months Before Starting
In our example, for a student starting a new school in August 2024, a family would take these steps starting in December 2023.
- Research dates for lotteries so you know when to expect updates from schools.
- After each lottery, look for either an offer of enrollment or information about your position on the waiting list.
Six Months Before Starting
In our example, for a student starting a new school in August 2024, a family would take these steps starting in February 2024.
- Watch for changes to the waiting lists and additional enrollment offers.
- Make a decision among your top choice schools.
- Accept an offer and complete the registration process.
More Thoughts about School Search
Does the school search process seem overwhelming? We understand the feeling; all of our team members have been in your shoes, too. Our goal is to make the process easier for the families who are walking this path after us.
There’s no such thing as a perfect school. Our hope is that, among the many high-quality schools in San Antonio, you will find one that meets most of your children’s academic and social needs and supports your family’s values.
You can apply to more than one school, and accept offers from more than one school, but please act in good faith and decline or withdraw as soon as you decide that your child will not attend.
Even if things don’t go as well as you hope this year, you can try again next year. If location is an issue, some schools give priority to families who transfer from one campus within a network to another. As we mentioned earlier, in Texas, waiting lists don’t carry over from year to year, so you’ll need to reapply each year.
School Search Timeline Handout
Download or print this information as a one-page handout. The text is in English on one side and in Spanish on the other.
Charter Moms Chats
Inga Cotton, Founder and Executive Director of San Antonio Charter Moms, explains the timeline for a school search in this video recorded on August 21, 2023.
Inga Cotton is the Founder and Executive Director of San Antonio Charter Moms. Inga is the mother of Annika, age 13, and Nicholas, age 16, and on the autism spectrum. Inga is the Founder and Executive Director of San Antonio Charter Moms, a nonprofit that helps families find schools that are the right fit for their children and become advocates for quality education. Inga has lived in San Antonio since high school and has a B.A. in History from Trinity University and a law degree from the University of Texas. In 2011, she learned about new charter schools coming to San Antonio. She wanted to help spread the word to families, so she created the San Antonio Charter Moms blog in 2012. Over time, San Antonio Charter Moms became an online community, including an active discussion group on Facebook, and became a non-profit organization in 2018. Inga and her family enjoy hiking at parks and trails, going to museums and concerts, and trying new recipes and restaurants.
Read More About School Search
- “School Models: Charter School, Private School, Traditional Public School, and More,” San Antonio Charter Moms, August 31, 2023
- “How to Find the Best Schools in San Antonio,” San Antonio Charter Moms, February 25, 2020
- “The School Choice Roadmap,” Andrew Campanella, 2020
- “Searching for Charter Schools in San Antonio: What You Can Do in January,” San Antonio Charter Moms, January 17, 2019
- “Finding the Right Schools in San Antonio for Your Children – MOMS Club of San Antonio NE Edition,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, April 9, 2018