Booths at an enrollment fair held by Kansas City Public Schools on July 28 at Manual Career and Technical Center were designed to help engage students and their families. Applications for the 2022-23 school year at KCPS opened Dec. 6.
Booths at an enrollment fair held by Kansas City Public Schools on July 28 at Manual Career and Technical Center were designed to help engage students and their families. Applications for the 2022-23 school year at KCPS opened Dec. 6. (Zachary Linhares/The Beacon)

It may feel like the current school year has just begun, but applications are already open for next year. 

You can sign up for your neighborhood public school — the one assigned based on where you live — at any time, even after the 2022-23 school year starts. 

But if you live within the district boundaries of Kansas City Public Schools, that isn’t your only option. Families can also apply to KCPS signature schools, which are open to anyone living in the district. These schools are designed to have a specific focus, such as college prep, arts or Spanish-English language immersion. 

All district students can also attend charter schools — independent and free public schools that sometimes offer specialized programs such as French immersion or single-gender education. 

So how do you select your top choices and ensure you have a good shot at being admitted? We’ve put together this guide to help. 

Kansas City Public Schools

When can I apply for KCPS schools?

The application process for Kansas City Public Schools opened Dec. 6. For schools that use a lottery system to allocate spots, the lottery will close Feb. 15. Applying earlier or later within the window will not affect your chances of being chosen. You’ll be placed on a waitlist if you apply after Feb. 15. 

How do I pick my top choices? 

If you’re not sure which schools to apply to, it’s OK to take your time, said Elle Moxley, public relations coordinator for KCPS. 

“Nobody needs to rush out on December 6 and make a decision about where their kids are headed in eight months,” she said. 

Moxley suggested families can look at signature school information on the Kansas City Public Schools website, call the admissions office with questions, seek advice from friends and neighbors, or talk with trusted teachers who are familiar with the student and school options. 

“We also want to be clear that we’re ready to enroll students who are not current KCPS students,” she said. “We know that in Kansas City families have a lot of different school options. We have some really fantastic programs; it’s very normal for people to enter KCPS who’ve gone to maybe a charter elementary school or a private elementary school.”

What do I need to apply for KCPS?

It depends what school(s) you’re interested in. 

For all schools, you can apply through the Infinite Campus Parent Portal. If the student isn’t already in the system, KCPS has instructions for filling out an initial enrollment form or adding a student to your profile.  

The KCPS website says the initial form should take about 10-15 minutes and requires some basic information about parents and students. 

You’ll automatically be enrolled in your neighborhood school, but each student can apply to as many as three signature schools. 

Some signature schools have specific admissions requirements, like test scores, auditions or language skills. 

Lincoln College Preparatory Academy extended its waiver of testing requirements for another school year in light of pandemic disruptions and equity concerns. But the school still requires a minimum 3.0 GPA in core subjects, 90% or better attendance and a good disciplinary record for admission, Moxley said. 

Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts high school is resuming its audition requirements, she added. “We’re bringing that back because we do recognize that capturing kids that have that arts drive and that arts focus or that arts passion is really the purpose of having a school like Paseo.”

George Washington Carver Dual Language School and Foreign Language Academy are open to all kindergartners but require older students to take a language screening to ensure they can participate, according to an admissions FAQ and a recent school board presentation. The district’s Montessori schools also require Montessori experience for admission after the younger grades. 

Lincoln, the foreign language schools and the Montessori schools typically have wait lists that vary in length each year, Moxley said. 

“If kids don’t get into their top choice school, we have a lot of schools that offer similar programming, but maybe in a different way that they may not know about,” she said. “And that’s something that we can talk families through if they have questions.”

What happens after I apply to KCPS?

KCPS will enter you into a lottery and/or consider your qualifications. It will notify you of any school offers by Feb. 25. 

By March 7, you must accept your seat by updating mandatory registration information and clicking “accept” in the parent portals. 

Timeline for KCPS admissions

Dec. 6: Application opens
Feb. 15: Deadline to be included in lotteries for signature schools
Feb. 25: KCPS notifies families of any admissions offers
March 7: Deadline to accept admissions offer in parent portal

Kansas City charter schools

When can I apply to charter schools?

Most Kansas City charter schools use a lottery system through SchoolAppKC. The application process opened Nov. 13 and the lottery will close March 1. If you miss the lottery deadline, you can still apply for any remaining spots on a first-come first-served basis. 

According to the SchoolAppKC website, a few charter schools do not use the application and have a separate enrollment process. Those that have opted out are Allen Village Charter — the only KCPS-sponsored charter school — Frontier Schools and Scuola Vita Nuova

How do I pick my top choices? 

Douglas Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association, suggested families can use Show Me KC Schools to compare their options. 

The nonprofit collects information to help parents compare traditional public, charter and private school options and provides navigators to guide parents through their options. Its website advertises a number of virtual school tours in the coming weeks.

Thaman also said that charter schools are often open to having families visit to experience the school firsthand. 

“Take your time and really explore your options, even if you think you know, you think your decision’s already made,” he said. “Each child is different, and each family is different. And it’s best to find that option that’s going to really work best and best support that child.”

What do I need to apply for a charter school?

If you’re using SchoolAppKC, you need to create a family profile and then apply to specific schools. The website says the application should only take five minutes — you’ll go through your school’s enrollment process separately if you receive and accept an admissions offer. 

Some charter schools have specific requirements to enroll. 

For example, the website for Académie Lafayette says students without prior French experience are only admitted in pre-K, kindergarten, first and ninth grades. 

Kansas City Girls Prep Academy only accepts female students. And some charter schools give preference in the lottery to students in specific geographic areas. 

What happens after I apply?

If you use SchoolAppKC, you’ll be entered in a lottery for each school to which you submitted an application — unless they have fewer applicants than spots and a lottery isn’t necessary. 

Timeline for SchoolAppKC

Nov. 13: Application opens
March 1: Deadline to be included in charter school lotteries
March 7: Receive admissions offers
March 14: Deadline to accept an admissions offer

You’ll find out by March 7 which schools can offer you a seat. Others may put you on a waitlist, and it’s possible you’ll get an offer from them later if other families decline offers. 

By March 14, you must accept one offer. If you don’t, all of your offers will expire and you will have to start over. If you’re on any waitlists for schools, you can stay on them even after you’ve accepted another offer. 

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Maria Benevento is the education reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. She is a Report for America corps member. Follow her on Twitter @MariaFBenevento.