Inside this post: Grab a free printable PCS checklist for changing schools with military kids. Learn step-by-step what military families need to know before moving kids to a new school.
I had that sinking feeling as I rolled into the parking lot. Something was missing. I knew it wasn’t the kids. After three separate checks of the backseat on the trip, I felt pretty confident that they were actually there.
Walking up to the doors, it nagged at me. What could be missing?
It was only when the head of school requested my daughter’s vaccination records that it hit me. Those vaccination records were in our household goods shipment. And that shipment was currently in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I never want to make this same mistake. Here are all the things I make sure to have before changing my military kids’ school.
First, a binder.
Or a few folders. Really just a place to keep all the stuff that you will need to PCS smoothly with school aged children. You might also want to get those pretty binder dividers while you are at it.
If you are moving schools for multiple children, it is best to have multiple binders or a really awesome color coding system. Now, get ready to stuff that binder full!
Every single school requires that you show these, so definitely do not pack them in your OCONUS HHG shipment. Learn from my mistake.
Get an official copy from your medical provider, and then make copies of that copy. Stick these inside of your binder in the medical section. If your child takes medications during the school day or has emergency meds (think: EpiPen), put that info there, too.
Your child’s last progress report or report card should be coming with you as well. This shows what grade your child is in and also sheds light on academic performance. The new teacher will thank you for giving her a sneak peek of how your kiddo does academically.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan
This is unbelievably important for students with special education needs. Receiving (new) schools MUST provide comparable services to the sending (old) school. To do that, the new school has to have a hard copy of the old school’s IEP or 504 Plan.
The new school will also likely be reviewing the current IEP to create their own version or reassessing your child completely. Every school and district has its own particular way of writing and managing education plans. The current IEP gives everyone a jumping off point.
Include the most recent reports from specialists, progress updates and any testing results. Honestly, the more info the school has up front, the better with will go for you.
Gifted and Talented (GT) Plan – If Applicable
Along the same lines, make sure you have something in writing about your child’s placement in the gifted and talented program. This could be an official acceptance letter, test results or an actual education plan. A super nice touch would be to have your child’s current GT teacher write up a letter for the new school!
Remember, just like special education, GT programs MUST accept moving military students if they were in a similar program at the last school. This is per the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3). However, the new school will probably retest your child just to confirm this placement.
Other Legal Documents
Have a custody plan with your ex? Is your child staying with a temporary guardian? This is the place to put that. Be sure to include ALL relevant documents, like court orders and powers of attorney. And let the school know right away what that deal is, especially when it’s complicated.
Trust me, schools have seen it all and will not bat an eye when you explain your complicated custody arrangements.
Letters of Recommendation
Adding a few letters of recommendation to your binder will never hurt you. This is something you need to consider doing if your child is:
- a talented athlete, musician, debater, artist, etc.
- in 11th or 12th grade
- gifted or placed in special education
- applying to private schools
Copy of Orders
This is self-explanatory. But is also shows that you are a military family, which means the schools needs to follow MIC3 when admitting your student.
Proof of Residence
Bring a piece of mail from your new address, like a utility bill. This shows you live in the district and can register at your chosen school.
If you don’t yet have an address, the copy of PCS orders will show that your family will be legally living in the area. Schools may be able to accept this as proof of residency.
Now, search and register.
Before you even arrive at your new duty station, take a quick peek at potential schools online. Try to find as many reviews of the school as possible, or even reach out via social media to current families.
Remember that different schools may offer different programs or have different resources. Other families might be looking at a school from Angle A, but you are coming at it from Angle Z.
First, bring your fully loaded PCS binder with you. You should also bring any relevant photo IDs with you as well as social security cards (just to be safe).
Then be ready to fill out the endless paperwork. Repeat this step at each school where your family will have a child. Pick up the supply lists and ask about Meet the Teacher Day in the fall. This is also a great time to ask about school or town run summer programs!
Back at my daughter’s new school, I was having a moment of sheer panic on the sidewalk.
I whipped out my phone in an effort to magically fix my mistake. As I scrolled through my contacts, my memory caught on a remote possibility for salvaging this trip. Before we moved, I had emailed a PDF of the vaccine records to my husband so he could start paperwork.
Was it still in my sent mail?
Sweet. Yes. It was.
My trip to enroll my daughter in school was saved by technology. And I will never be without my PCS school binder for future moves.
Grab your free printable checklist!
This post comes with a free printable PCS checklist for changing schools. Make it easy to remember all the things you need when your military child changes schools.
Want more on military life?
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- 9 Hidden Ways to Save Money at the Commissary and Exchange
- 47 Things No One Tells You About Being a Military Wife
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