Students cannot choose the schools they want to attend. Students are assigned to the school in the school district where they reside. That is referred to as the “home school”. In order to qualify for a Change of School Assignment (COSA), the parent or guardian must show that there is a documented and unique hardship. Examples are short term school suspensions, medical issues, conflict with a peer where the students cannot coexist in the same school, emotional difficulties, etc.
A transfer request is made by filing a COSA request at the student’s home school. A COSA request must be made between February 1 and April 1for the following school year. COSA requests submitted after April 1 will not be accepted unless the student is a new resident of Montgomery County, or there is a bona fide emergency or event that could not have been foreseen prior to April 1. Documentation of supporting facts must be furnished to the home school with the COSA request. The student making the request is must be enrolled in their home school while the COSA is being processed.
The principal at the home school will sign the COSA request and forward it to the COSA office. The principal’s signature on the COSA simply verifies the student’s residency and the principal’s knowledge of the request. It does not mean that the principal supports the request. Schools typically notify parents about the COSA decision in May. COSA requests submitted for students who receive 15 or more hours of special education services are decided after July 1. Parents should not expect that just because they filed a COSA that their request for a school transfer will be granted.
Although the primary requirement for requesting a change of school transfer is a documented and unique hardship, there are exceptions:
Sibling: Older sibling attends requested school in the regular program absent a boundary change.
Continuation: Elementary school students return to their home middle schools unless a COSA form is submitted and approved based on unique hardship or one of the stated exemptions. Middle school students on an approved COSA may continue to that school’s feeder pattern high school, except when affected by boundary change, application program acceptance, or consortium choice guidelines, but a new COSA form must be submitted.
Exempt Programs: Student selected for an exempt program.
Family Relocation: When a family moves within Montgomery County, preference to remain in the original school will be considered to complete the current school year only.
The school system can also base their decision on factors outside specific documented reasons such as: the number of students who attend the school, language immersion programs, the size of the attendance area, or by lottery when there are more requests than available spaces.
If a COSA is approved, the parents become personally responsible to transport the student to and from school. Montgomery County will not provide transportation for a child to attend a school outside their home school cluster.
In the event the COSA is denied, an appeal of that decision can be made to the Office of the Chief Operating Officer, 850 Hungerford Drive, Room 149, Rockville, MD 20850. The appeal has to be made in writing and received in the chief operating officer’s office within 15 calendar days from the date of the decision. The appeal must explain all the reason(s) why an appeal of the decision is being made. It is not necessary to provide additional information in order to appeal. However, a parent can submit additional information with the appeal to be considered in that process if the parent wishes to do so. Appeals are reviewed on the basis of the documents submitted and telephone conferences. As explained above, the student must continue to attend their home school while they wait for a decision to be made on the COSA appeal.
If the chief operating officer denies the COSA appeal a second appeal can be made directly to the Board of Education, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, MD 20850, so long as it is made no more than 30 calendar days from the date of the chief operating officer’s decision letter. However, appeals to the Board of Education should be made right away. The Board of Appeals hears these second appeals at their regularly scheduled Board meetings. No appeals are heard in August when the Board is not in session.