Within-District Transfers

For more than twenty years, thousands of Des Moines students have participated in within-district transfers. The diversity created by the movement of these students has become a major component of quality education in Des Moines Public Schools.

Young people are far better prepared for the future when they attend school in an educational setting that is reflective of society’s diversity. Identifying similarities and understanding differences in individuals, their cultures and backgrounds, is not only healthy for individual students, but also for the entire community. Diversity enriches the educational climate of our schools. All aspects of education (history, literature, language, etc.) are enhanced by the different viewpoints and perspectives introduced by racial and ethnic diversity.

Parents interested in participating in within-district transfers should call the Open Enrollment office at 515-242-7353, or email dana.jarvis@dmschools.org, for additional information.


Please note that our within district open enrollment process remains the same, but is now called “Within District Transfers.”

Parents or guardians of a Des Moines resident student wishing to enroll in a different school within the District must make formal application between July 1 and March 1 the year prior to enrollment. Applications will be dated upon receipt and processed during the month of March. Applications for kindergarten students will not be processed until after the fall registration in August. Open enrollment approval is granted based on space availability in the order in which the applications are received as long as it does not impact the district’s diversity plan.

Download the Diversity Plan  (revised October 2012)

Parents must request a specific school but may list other acceptable choices. Based on the official September count, schools or portions of schools may be closed to open enrollment because of insufficient classroom space or to maintain required diversity guidelines. These and other limitations to transfers are explained below.

Please be sure to fill out the application for the school year for which you are applying:

For a copy of the within-district transfer application for the 2013-2014 school year, please click here. To access the form in Spanish, please click here.

For a copy of the within-district transfer application for the 2014-2015 school year, please click here. Click here to access the Spanish version.


Based on the official enrollment count, each Region’s Administration shall identify the District attendance centers or portions of attendance centers closed to District transfers for the following year. Schools or portions of schools may be closed to between-district open enrollment because of insufficient classroom space or to maintain the District’s diversity guidelines.

Insufficient Classroom Space
Criteria to be used to determine insufficient classroom space may include, but is not limited to, available personnel, educational program, instructional methods, physical space, equipment and materials available, finances available, facilities being planned or currently under construction, sharing agreements in force, bargaining agreements, District goals and objectives, and grade level enrollments. Open enrollment applications will be denied at the elementary level when projected enrollments exceed an average of 24 students per class in grades K-2 and 26 in grades 3-5 of the selected school. The District shall not be required to hire additional instructional staff in order to accommodate open enrollment students.

Diversity Safeguards
Board policy provides in part that requests for transfer may be denied if the enrollment or release of a pupil will adversely affect implementation of the District’s diversity plan. The District’s open enrollment policy permits transfers only where they are consistent with the maintenance of school-by-school diversity goals approved by the State. The following provisions set forth objective criteria established by the Board of Education for determining when a request for transfer would adversely impact the diversity plan. This policy is narrowly tailored to protect the diversity plan without extending too far or denying the rights of those not affecting the diversity plan. Copies of the District’s diversity plan may be obtained from Open Enrollment, 1302 2nd Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50314.

Building by Building Criteria
Open enrollment approvals may not cause a Des Moines school’s minority percentage to exceed or fall below the District’s minority percentage by more than ten percentage points.

“Minority Student”: For the purposes of open enrollment, “minority student” is defined to include that category of students eligible for free and reduced lunch.
“Non-minority student”: For the purpose of open enrollment, “non-minority student” is defined to include that category of students not eligible for free and reduced price lunch.

Sibling Rule
To avoid dividing families, applications of otherwise eligible siblings of previously approved students will be given first priority. Students approved from this group will be approved in the order in which their siblings were previously approved.

Special note: the approval of one family member into a school does not guarantee that other or future siblings will be similarly approved. All applications are made on an individual basis and are determined by existing circumstances at the time the application is received.

Special Education Students
Open enrollment requests for special education students shall be reviewed by the Special Education Zone Supervisor of the receiving school Approvals or denials shall be based upon the following criteria:

  • Availability of appropriate programs: If the appropriateness of the program is in question, the students will remain enrolled in the program of the current school until a final determination is made.
  • Adequate space: The District shall not be required to hire additional instructional or support staff in order to accommodate open enrollment students. The pupil/teacher ratios required by state law or District policy shall be maintained for all special education programs.
  • Impact on diversity: The approval of an application may not have a negative effect on the District’s diversity plan. Applications of students whose transfer would positively impact the District’s diversity plan would be given priority.
  • Siblings: Priority consideration shall be given to students with previously approved siblings. Students so approved shall be done so in the order in which their siblings were previously approved.
  • Transportation: Transportation will be the responsibility of the parent (see transportation for available options).

Continuation of Educational Program
Students moving from one attendance area to another may remain in the original school for the remainder of the school year with no interruption of their education program. To do so, parents must complete a request for continuation. This request must be honored by both the sending and receiving school. Parents assume responsibility for transporting students approved for continuation.

Special note: Families wishing to extend this continuation into the fall semester of the next year must apply for open enrollment.

Approvals/denials will be based on availability of space in the order in which the application is received and the impact on diversity. Families whose applications are denied through this procedure may appeal. Appeals must be made within two weeks of notification by calling 242-7353.

Interscholastic Athletics
Students who transfer prior to grade 10 will be eligible to participate in interscholastic athletic contests. A student who transfers in grades 10 through 12 shall not be eligible to participate in interscholastic athletic contests and athletic competitions during the first 90 school days of enrollment unless the student’s resident district does not offer the interscholastic sport.

Parents of students approved for within-district open enrollment are responsible for transporting their student to the new school. Board policy provides that parents may request paid district transportation to the receiving school. Application for paid transportation should be made by contacting the office of the receiving school. Approval of such transportation is subject to the availability of space on an existing route.

Requests for transportation made prior to the beginning of school will be reviewed after the end of the second week of school. Approvals will be granted on a first come, first served basis. The district regrets that in rare instances approval must be revoked to provide space for otherwise eligible students. Eligible students may enter the bus at any one of a number of existing stops.

Terms of Enrollment
With the exception of initial continuation requests, all approvals will be for the school’s feeder pattern. If a student is approved in elementary, they will automatically transition to that schools feeder middle and high school without needing to reapply for open enrollment. Likewise if a student is approved for middle school they will automatically transition to the feeder high school without reapplying for open enrollment.

Discontinuing Participation in Open Enrollment
Within district open enrollment requests are granted for a minimum period of one year. To avoid disruption to the student’s educational program, parents wishing to withdraw their student from within district open enrollment may only do so at certain times:

  • Parents may withdraw from within district open enrollment prior to the beginning of the school year.
  • Elementary students may seek withdrawal at the end of either the first or second semester.
  • Because of the problems involved with scheduling individual classes, middle and high school students may discontinue participation only at the conclusion of the school year.

Hardships and Late Applications
Hardships and late applications may be given special consideration. Exceptions may include, but are not limited to, a change in a child’s parents’ marital status, a change in the family’s residence, a guardianship proceeding, adoption, or participation in a substance abuse or mental health treatment program.

Appeal Procedures
When a within-district open enrollment request is denied, parents may appeal the decision by calling 515-242-7353. Appeals must be made within two weeks of the date of denial. Administration will review each case to determine whether a hardship exists.