Moving to a New School
How to Ensure a Smooth Transition
By Marcel E. Pourtout
Getting your child properly enrolled in his or her new schoolcan be one of the most challenging and stressful parts of moving to a new city. Finding the right school, filling out medical information, even proving U.S. citizenship can all cause anxiety for parents. Meanwhile, your children are forced to leave behind their friends, routines and surroundings and start all over in a new setting.
But whether your child is entering a new school just a few miles away or across the country, there are steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.
Is This the Right School?
If your child is attending a public school, you’ll want to make sure they’re properly enrolled with the right school. The school your child will attend is determined by his or her primary residence. The Georgia Department of Education (GDOE) at gadoe.org and Atlanta Public Schools (APS) at atlantapublicschools.us provide a geographical map with a breakdown of public schools by district, county and city.
If your child is attending a charter or independent school, this is less of an issue. Since you’ve already gone through the process of applying to the school and getting your child enrolled, you know where he or she is going. But you’ll want to make sure you know how far your home is from the school. Some independent schools offer transportation to and from school for an additional fee, but yours may not.
Parents interested in homeschooling may submit a declaration of intent form online through the GDOE. Georgia’s home study law requires homeschooling parents to provide a basic academic educational program which includes the five content areas of mathematics, English language arts, science, social studies and reading.
You’ll also need to make sure your child has had their most recent eye, ear and dental exams, and obtain a certificate of immunization. Georgia law requires that parents provide a certificate of vision, hearing, dental and nutrition screening the first time a child is admitted to a public school. This certificate, Form 3300, can be found on the GDOE website.
The state law also requires all students, including foreign exchange students, to be immunized with the required vaccines at the time of their first entry in school. This also applies if a student is returning after having been absent from a Georgia public school for more than 12 months or one school year. The certificate of immunization, Form 3231, can also be found on the GDOE website.
The Fulton County Board of Health at fultoncountyboh.org and Dekalb County Board of Health at dekalbhealth.net provide listings of certified doctors and medical institutions for children examinations and form completions. For independent schools, consult the school’s administration regarding their medical exam and immunization requirements.
You’ll also be required to provide proof of birth for your child, like an original or state-certified birth certificate. Your school or school system may accept other items, such as a copy of the birth certificate accompanied by a signed affidavit; an insurance policy on the child’s life; or a valid passport, driver’s license or military ID. Check your school or school system’s website for details.
Your child will probably also be expected to have proper photo identification, such as a driver’s license, passport or state-issued ID, and a Social Security number. If they don’t already have one, visit the national Social Security website at ssa.gov to begin the process of acquiring one.
Visiting the School
Regardless of whether your child will be attending an independent or public school, you’ll want to pay a visit to the campus and attend an orientation to help your child get acclimated. “Anxious kids really need orientation to the school,” says Dr. John Lochridge, a child, adult and family psychiatrist. “They may have difficulties with things like the lockers, cafeteria and playground. The parents and students should do a full tour of everything and discuss things such as seating with the teachers.”
This applies even to middle and high school students who move to different classrooms throughout the day. “Go to all of the classrooms, because some kids who struggle socially are passing through many people and may worry about being liked,” says Lochridge. “They may also worry about getting from one class to another without being late. Try to simulate the school day during orientation.”
Of course, this may not be possible as the GDOE and independent schools work to determine whether and how to reopen schools after closing for the coronavirus pandemic. Keep in close touch with your school’s administration and visit its website often to know about any updates pertaining to the upcoming school year.
Work with Your Child
Lochridge also recommends having a talk with your child to address any concerns they might have.
“The children may have additional questions after orientation, so it’s important to go over every aspect of it,” he says. “Try to get their feelings about it and let them lead the conversation.”
After spending the previous months in the summer with a less-structured schedule, they may take some time to adjust. And, of course, normal routines were upended when schools shifted to virtual classrooms during shelter-inplace orders. Setting up an established routine, with clear expectations, is a good idea. “They’re used to a summertime schedule, which may mean waking up later in the morning,” says Lochridge. “I believe in the parents sitting down with their children and setting up a structured situation about a week in advance of the school year. You want the children waking up early and starting a morning routine—having breakfast, getting dressed and going someplace. Kids love to stay up late, so disciplining the electronics and having dinner earlier in the evening helps.” Have a regular conversation with your child as the school year approaches and as it begins. And check in with his or her teachers as well. Showing interest and maintaining open communication will have you well on the way to helping him or her adapt to his or her new surroundings.