Maine public school enrollment

What schools can children in Maine go to?

Generally, a student must be a resident of a public school district to go to school there. 

A student is a resident of the public school district where their parent or guardian with custody lives. 

But, if a student is 18, they are a legal adult.  As a legal adult, they are a resident of the public school district where they live (not where their parents live).  If a student is under 18 but is legally emancipated (legally freed from the control of their parents) they are a resident of the school district where they, not their parents, live.  

Common Exceptions

Homeless Students

Homeless students can choose between two schools:

  • the school they were going to before they became homeless, or
  • the school of the student’s current location 

There should be no delay for any reason in the enrollment of a homeless student.  The school must provide for the student's transportation.

Students in DHHS custody

A student is a resident of the school district where they are placed by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  But, if they are placed with someone who is not their parent or legal guardian, then DHHS, the Maine Department of Education, and the school district can decide what school district is in the student’s best interest to attend.  

If a student is going to stay at the school they were going to, DHHS must arrange and pay for transportation to and from that school.  Student should talk to their DHHS worker and guardian ad litem (GAL) about what school they think is in their best interest to attend.

Students Living with someone other than a parent or legal guardian

If a student is living with someone other than their parent or guardian they may be able to go to the school where they are living. This can happen without the student getting a legal guardian.  
The superintendent of the public school district where the student wants to go to makes this decision.   The superintendent must decide that it is in the student’s best interests to go to that school.  When making this decision, the superintendent must find that:

  • The student is not living in that school district just to go to school there, and
  • It is undesirable and impractical for the student to live with either of their parents.
    • There is safety reason why they are not living with their parents,
    • there are other extenuating circumstances that explain why they are living in the school district.

Example:  A student is 15-years-old and living with their grandmother.  They don’t know where their father lives.  Their mother was recently sent to jail.  In this example, the student is living with their grandmother because they cannot live with either of their parents.  

The adult the student is living with should write to the superintendent to ask that they be allowed to go to school there.  The letter should explain why they are not living with their parents and why the child is living with them.  The letter should also ask the superintendent to decide that it is in the student’s best interests to go to that school. 

Someone at the school must to try to contact one of the student’s parents to let them know that this request was made.  The superintendent may also call the school the student used to go to find out more about the student and their situation.

The superintendent has 10 days from when they received the letter to make their decision.

The superintendent must say yes or no.  If the superintendent says no, they must give the person who asked a written denial. 

The notice must say:
•    The reasons why the superintendent said no, and
•    That there is a right to appeal to the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education.

To appeal, either the person who asked the Superintendent to enroll the student or the student’s parent(s) can send a letter to the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education.  The letter needs to ask that the Commissioner review and overturn the Superintendent’s decision.  The Commissioner must make a decision within one week of receiving the appeal letter. 

If you have questions, call KIDS LEGAL.

Transferring School Districts

To transfer to another school district in Maine, the superintendents of both public school districts must agree.  They must decide that:

•    It is in your best interest to transfer, and
•    The student’s parent agrees to the transfer.     

The transfer should be requested in writing and explain why it is in the student’s best interest to go to a different school. If the superintendents decide you can transfer schools, that decision is reviewed every year.  The student is not automatically allowed to stay at the other school forever.  To continue going to the transfer school, there are usually conditions the student has to follow, such as good attendance and staying out of trouble. The student or their family is responsible for own transportation to school if the transfer is approved.

If a transfer request is denied, a parent can ask the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education to review and overturn that decision.

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