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If you're on the ball, your kid can probably attend any public school around



So you live out east, but your kid wants to go to school downtown? Easy.

While most students do go to their neighborhood schools, they don't have to. If, say, your daughter wants to go to a school because of its unique music program, so be it. Colorado is a choice state, points out Elaine Naleski, spokeswoman for Colorado Springs School District 11. "If I worked in Denver, I could enroll my kid in a Denver school."

The money in Colorado follows the child, unlike in, say, Texas, she says, where the property-tax money that funds schools stays in the district where the parent resides. If parents want to send their kids elsewhere, they have to pay.

Each district in Colorado Springs offers open enrollment to students outside of the district. Thousands of local kids take advantage every year. (Thousands more, of course, attend private schools.)

D-11, the city's largest district with more than 28,000 kids, runs its open-enrollment program, as many districts do, under the name Choice.

"We have schools that offer different programs: Bristol [Elementary] has a violin program; Russell Middle School has a performing arts program," says D-11's Kathy Marzari. "So people who are looking for certain things can try to 'choice' into a school where they can get the program they are looking for."

It's as simple as filling out an application at the appropriate time. Districts have different open-enrollment windows; in D-11, the application process for 2011-12 ended on Feb. 15, having opened on the first of November.

State law only allows an applicant's denial if: "There is lack of space or teaching staff; The school does not offer a requested or appropriate program to meet the needs of the student; The student does not meet established eligibility criteria for participation in a particular program; or, the student is currently expelled, has been expelled in the preceding 12 months, or has been expelled as a habitually disruptive student or for a serious violation."

Schools are funded based on the number of students that the school has every Oct. 1. With that in mind, explains Falcon School District 49 spokeswoman Stephanie Meredith, any district can refuse a student who plans to arrive after Oct. 1.

To get an early start on choice for the 2012-13 school year, contact directly the district in which you're interested.

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