New Orleans Schools
Like many facets of New Orleans living, our elementary, middle, and high schools are like no other place in the world. If you have a child who will attend school here in the next year or even longer, you may already be stressing about what to do.
Personally, I knew that once my children were school-age, I would be sending them to a public school. I had many reasons for this, the top reasons being that I believe in public schools and think they’re a great fit for what I want my kids to learn and experience. Additionally, I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of public schools here and know that some really amazing things are happening. Not to mention that public school is free. (But no, I don’t work in or for any New Orleans schools at the moment, this is just an honest review.)
So if you’re planning, or even thinking of planning, to send your child to a New Orleans public school, here’s what to expect in the next few months.
All public school enrollment happens through a large-scale school lottery system: The NOLA-PS Common Application Process (NCAP). NCAP, formerly known as OneApp, will open sometime later this fall. Last year it opened on November 1st, and applications were due towards the end of January. Families typically receive results (i.e., a school placement) at the end of March.
For the most part, the application process is straightforward. Here’s what you will do:
- Create an account in the enrollment portal, then add your child or children.
- List your school choices, in order of preference.
- Submit your application.
- Follow up with any school-specific requests.
Depending on your school preferences, you may need to submit additional forms after submitting the NCAP. For example, if you are applying for an early childhood seat, all applicants must verify program eligibility by uploading documents online. As another example, if you’re expecting sibling priority, you may need to submit proof of sibling status. A small number of schools have testing requirements or mandatory parent meetings as well. You will receive plenty-an-email about these requirements; be sure to read them thoroughly to keep up your eligibility status.
Ranking Your School Options
For many parents, ranking school choices is the hardest part of the process. You can search for schools on this site. Click on the name of any school and use the tabs on the left to find out more info. Reach out to other parents, including via the New Orleans Mom neighborhood groups; this is a great way to expand your list beyond the most popular options. Then, check out individual websites for school-specific info, including dates for school tours when you can go and see the buildings in person. Use this list of questions to learn more about each option.
As you’re making your list, keep in mind these two things:
- NCAP uses an advanced algorithm to match students to schools. Adding a higher number of schools to your list does not hurt your child’s chance of getting into their first choice.
- Many New Orleans schools are high-quality schools, and many have specialty programs like creative arts, gardening and culinary arts, language immersion, Montessori education, and more. Many of our school buildings here are beautifully renovated with gorgeous indoor and outdoor spaces. In many ways, you can send your child to a public school and have them in a program similar to what you may expect from a private institution.
The Data Speaks
I know the school application process has a complicated reputation in New Orleans. However, although you may not be looking forward to it, the actual data is encouraging. In fact, last year over 80% of K-12 applicants matched with one of their top three choices.
In my personal experience, my oldest daughter initially matched with our fourth choice school. The week after school started, she moved off the pre-k waitlist and was able to enroll in our top choice school. Now in our second year there, we have been so impressed by the school and honestly couldn’t have imagined a better school environment for our little school-lover.