How to navigate the transfer system

WHEN YOU FIRST spied that adorable Victorian with the garden in the back and storybook front porch, you instantly fell in love. The only problem? Your dream home was outside the boundaries of the school you wanted your child to attend. But since Portland Public Schools has a transfer option, you figured you could make it work, and you can: After all, about a third of all PPS students don’t attend their neighborhood school. Still, you have to know how to navigate the somewhat complicated, multitiered system. Enter Judy Brennan, program director for PPS’s enrollment and transfer center ( She gave us the tips you’ll need to cruise through the process worry-free. —Kasey Cordell

STUDY UP. On Feb 2 at the Expo Center, PPS hosts Celebrate, where parents can meet with representatives from every school in the district. Stop by your local school’s booth even if you’re hoping to send your child elsewhere, because it doesn’t always work out: Last year, 22 percent of applicants stayed put.

TURN IN YOUR HOMEWORK ON TIME. PPS accepts applications for high school transfers from Jan 25 through Feb 22, and K-8 from Feb 2 until Mar 7. Don’t worry about submitting your application on the last day; it has no bearing on your child’s chances for getting into the school of his choice.

TAKE A FIELD TRIP. Some schools, like Sunnyside Environmental (K-8), require parents to attend mandatory meetings about the curriculum in order for a child’s transfer application to be considered. Check with PPS to find out if your school of choice is one of them—because if you miss these, you’ll miss out.

PPS accepts transfers based on a priority system. Here’s how the district decides who gets in:

First: Students transferring from Title 1 schools that did not meet the federal academic standards of No Child Left Behind for three years in a row.

Second: Students who come from a school that has been reconfigured into smaller school (such as those at Marshall High).

Third: Students from schools with special circumstances: Those at a certain elementary may have priority to alleviate overcrowding at a middle or high school.

Fourth: Students with a sibling already attending the school they want to transfer into.

Fifth: Those living inside the district are prioritized over those living outside of it. If there are still more applicants than slots, names are randomly selected.