To register your child in an Iowa public school, the information needed for enrollment varies by district and may require additional information depending on your child’s services and activities for the year. In general, when enrolling in a public school for the first time, parents or legal guardians will need to provide proof of eligibility, such as age and residency.

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Proof of Residency in the School District

  • Under Iowa Code 282.1 a student must be a resident of the district in order to be enrolled in the district.
  • School officials may request proof that you live within the boundaries of the school district. Acceptable proof of residency may include a current lease, property tax notice, homeowner’s insurance bill, mortgage statement, current vehicle registration form, any utility bill listing your residence as the service address, a letter from a shelter, or a letter from your employer, if your employer provides housing. A school district’s requirements to establish residency must be applied in the same way for all children.
    • Addresses: A post office (P.O.) box is not considered a home address. Families with multiple addresses may use the address they consider as the main residence for tax purposes.
  • A school district may not ask about your or your child’s citizenship or immigration status to establish residency within the district, nor may a school district deny a homeless child (including a homeless child who is undocumented) enrollment because he or she cannot provide the required documents to establish residency.
  • While a school district may choose to include a parent’s state-issued identification or driver’s license among the documents that can be used to establish residency, a school district may not require such documentation to establish residency or for other purposes where such a requirement would unlawfully bar a student whose parents are undocumented from enrolling in school.

The following table provides residency determination examples:


Situation Resident? Enroll? Other remarks
Student lives with someone other than parent/guardian because of family problems or personal problems–not for school reasons. Yes. Student is a resident and must be enrolled tuition-free, without requiring guardianship papers

Emergency contact–must be someone who can make a decision about the student (parent or court-appointed guardian, e.g.) or who can quickly contact the decision-maker.

Report cards, communiqués from school still go to parent, unless
a parent gives written permission to school to send documents to the person with whom the student resides.

Same as above, but student is in district for school purposes (athletics, other extracurriculars, not doing well in former school). Not a resident; per Iowa Code 282.6 the district must charge tuition and may not include student on certified enrollment.

Same comments as above.

Same as first situation, but student is in district neither for school purposes nor because of personal or family problems (e.g., student is playing in a hockey league).


Factors to consider include:

  1. Does the student intend to return to parent’s home in the near future? How frequently does the child return to the parental home to visit?
  2. Does the parent furnish significant financial support for the child?
  3. Does the parent still have authority over the child?

Most of the time, these students are not going to be residents and must be charged tuition. An exception may exist for a student who is 18 or older and who sets up his/her own household (all above questions would have to be answered in the negative).

Same comments as previously. Creating a legal guardianship does not affect whether the student is a resident. It merely clarifies who gets information from the district and who can make decisions for a minor child.
Student lives with parent(s) in District A, but is with a relative (not a parent) before and/or after school in District B. This does not establish residency in District B. If parents want student to attend District B, they must file an open enrollment request.
Student resides with a court-appointed guardian. Doesn’t automatically make the student a resident for purposes of Iowa Code 282.6; still need to determine why the student is in the district.

The rights of a court-appointed guardian are superior to those of the parents; guardian is emergency contact and is the recipient of all documents from school.

Therefore, make sure this is a legal guardianship (as evidenced by a court order signed by a judge or by “letters of appointment”
signed by the clerk of court with a seal of court).

Student splits time equally between parents who live in different districts. Student is a resident of both districts, but only one district gets to include the student in its September count. It is permissible for the districts to determine which one will count the student and that district can reimburse the other. This analysis would apply as well to a student who requires special education services.
Family moves into the district from another country. Children in the family are residents of district, regardless of whether they are aliens and even regardless of whether the family’s presence in the U.S. is legal.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that a free education must be provided to resident children, even if they are illegal aliens.

A district cannot require any documents from this family that it would/could not request from any other family. That is, you may ask for proofs of birthdates and relevant health information. Period.

Student with dual citizenship (of which U.S. citizenship is included) moves into the district. Whether this student is a “resident” depends on why the student is in the district. If living with a parent for purposes of making a home, the student is a resident. If living with another relative or even a guardian for purposes of going to school, the student is not a resident. This student will not have a visa, because the student is a citizen. But remember that citizenship is not relevant to the issue of who is a resident.
Family refuses to give a street address, just gives P.O. box. Iowa Code 282.6 requires district to charge tuition; without proof of residency (A P.O. Box is NOT proof of residency in the district), charge tuition until the parent provides required proof.

There are legitimate reasons why a family would want its street address kept confidential; however, districts must have proof of
residency and can still take measures to protect this information.

If an individual participating in the Secretary of State’s Safe at Home program (providing an alternative address under Iowa Code chapter 9E) enrolls a child in school, please contact local counsel.

Student lives with a foster family. Is a resident of the district for purposes of receiving a tuition-free education.

Under Iowa law, foster parents are not guardians (unless there is a separate order). DHS is custodian for placement in foster care; unless parental rights have been terminated by a court, the natural parents still have the right to participate in meetings and receive reports.

Call local DHS office (the one that made the placement) to get some guidance in writing.

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Age Requirements and Proof of Age

Students between the ages of five and 21 are of school age in Iowa. Under Iowa Code 282.3 a child must be five on or before Sept. 15 to enter kindergarten and must be six on or before Sept. 15 to enter first grade.

  • One exception to the requirement that a child be six before Sept. 15 to enter first grade is if the child completed kindergarten in a school district in another state or in an accredited nonpublic school in Iowa. In that case, the child may be enrolled in first grade.
  • The Interstate Compact for the Education of Military Children also provides an exception for a child who moves into Iowa because of the deployment of a parent.
  • School districts cannot require the proof of age to be a birth certificate. Reasonable alternatives for proof of age may include an adoption record, certified statement of a physician, passport, hospital record of live birth, legal document, an official document from another country or anything else that is reasonably reliable. Some districts accept an immunization form with a birth date to verify the age of the student. 
    • If the registration process is completed online, districts should not allow parents or legal guardians to upload birth certificates into the school district’s system as this would create a copy of the birth certificate, which is not allowable under Iowa Code 144.45, which outlines the state registrar's authority to issue certificate copies. Districts that accept a birth certificate as proof of age should view the actual certificate and give it back to parents or guardians.
  • As long as a student is under the age of 21 on the first day of school, the student may enroll and complete the school year even if the student turns 21 the day after school starts. If the student turns 21 before school starts they are no longer school age.

Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP) Students

Under Iowa Code 299.1A(3), children who are four by Sept. 15 and are enrolled in the SWVPP are of compulsory attendance age, which means that attendance rules apply to the child. This enables a school district to remove a child who is not regularly attending the district’s program from its enrollment. The law does not change the parameters of the program; it is intended only to hold parents accountable for ensuring regular attendance on behalf of their students.

If the child is eligible for the SWVPP based on age and Iowa residency, the child is eligible for participation in the program regardless of whether the child is toilet trained. Based on preschool program standards and criteria, there would be policies in place for procedures to be implemented for children not yet toilet trained and these policies should be implemented in classroom practice. More information is available in a Commonly Asked Questions document developed by the U.S. Department of Justice (see Questions 15 and 16).

Kindergarten Students

Under Iowa Code 299.1A(2), a child who has reached the age of five by Sept. 15 and who is enrolled in a school district shall be considered to be of compulsory attendance age unless the parent or guardian of the child notifies the school district in writing of the parent's or guardian's intent to remove the child from enrollment in the school district.”

If a child who is enrolled in kindergarten is not attending school, because the child is now of compulsory attendance age, the district is to follow its compulsory attendance policies and procedures unless and until the parent provides the district with written notice of intent to withdraw the kindergarten child from school.

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Students must be registered using the child’s legal name under Iowa Administrative Code 281-12.3(4). Parents and legal guardians can indicate their child’s preferred name for use in class lists, yearbooks and other outward facing school lists.

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Social Security Numbers

  • Social security numbers are not required for registration.
  • If a school district requests a student’s social security number, it must: (1) inform you and your child that providing it is voluntary and that refusing to provide it will not bar your child from enrolling in or attending school, and (2) explain for what purpose the number will be used. 
  • A school district may not prevent your child from enrolling in or attending school if you choose not to provide your child’s social security number.  
  • A school district may not require you to provide your own social security number in order for your child to enroll in or attend school.

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Race or Ethnicity Data

  • School districts have some federal and state obligations to report race and ethnicity data for enrolled students. A school district may request that parents or guardians provide their child’s race or ethnicity for this purpose.
  • A school district may not bar a child from enrolling if a parent or guardian chooses not to provide their child’s race or ethnicity.

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School Immunizations and Enrollment

Iowa Code 139A.8 requires all students enrolling in an Iowa school to submit proof of immunizations to the admitting official using an Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (formerly an Iowa Department of Public Health) certificate of immunization or a provisional certificate, unless a valid certificate of religious or medical exemption has been submitted.

  • It is the duty of the admitting officials to ensure a valid certificate is on file for each student in their schools (Iowa Administrative Code 641-7.8(1)). Applicants without proper evidence of immunization or exemption are not entitled to enrollment in an elementary or secondary school. It shall be the duty of the admitting official to deny enrollment to students who do not comply with requirements for proof of immunization or immunization exemption (Iowa Administrative Code 641-7.10).
  • Students may be provisionally enrolled if they have received at least one dose of each of the required vaccines or they are transfer students from other U.S. school systems. The provisional certificate should be issued upon enrollment in the school. The provisional certificate allows for the vaccine to be administered as soon as medically feasible but shall not exceed 60 calendar days (Iowa Administrative Code 641-7.7(2)). It is the responsibility of the applicant, parent or guardian to ensure the applicant receives all necessary immunizations during the provisional enrollment period and submit a certificate of immunization to the admitting official at the end of the provisional enrollment period (Iowa Administrative Code 641-7.7(3)).
  • At the end of a provisional enrollment period, if an enrollee has not submitted a certificate of immunization, the admitting official shall immediately exclude the applicant from the benefits, activities and opportunities of the school until the applicant submits a valid certificate of immunization (Iowa Administrative Code 641-7.7(5)).
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