Article by: Rebecca Alwine

Photo Credit: Sara Fiedler

“On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again…” No, you’re probably not singing that song when orders come down forcing you to move before the school year ends. There is something so frustrating about those orders with a report day of mid-April that just infuriate parents. Moving halfway through the school year is bad enough, but why, for the love of Pete, can’t Human Resource Command think about the fact that school doesn’t end until late May/early June?

Anyway, you have orders, you are moving, and the kids will have to leave school early and not enter another school until Fall. What’s a military parent to do?! Here are some experiences from those who have done it a time or three before.

“It’s up to the principal of the new school whether they will accept the grades from the previous school if they cannot attend a new school for more than two weeks,” Jenny, pcsing to Korea from Arizona.

Another spouse recommends prolonging the move until mid-May, or the last physical day the schools will give full credit for, if at all possible.

There is a magic number of days the child must attend to get full credit. “When I was teaching, we could not promote a child on the fourth quarter report card if they had not attended a specific number of days,” remembers Missi, a military spouse and mom who has taught in several states.

When Amanda and her family left Georgia two weeks before school ended and had to register her oldest in New York because they had two more months of school left. Although her son had perfect attendance and straight A/s, he had to essentially repeat the last two months of the same grade.

Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission 

In August of 2014, all 50 states joined this compact, essentially created to make it easier for military kids to switch schools throughout their parents’ career. Department of Defense Schools cannot join the compact but work hand-in-hand with students and families as they move to and from these schools both overseas and stateside.

This compact is supposed to make it easier for children to switch schools, but it doesn’t always work. At the Annual Association of the United States Army Conference in 2015, General Mark Milley commented on just this, “If it isn’t working or you run into problems, please tell us,” he said. “Otherwise we have no way of knowing what is happening.”

Of course, it isn’t all smooth sailing, that would just be too easy. It seems as though populations with lots of military kids are easier to work with, including those schools on overseas military installations. Katie, a marine spouse, had a really hard time when leaving Texas. “Texas wouldn’t release the kids from school unless they registered elsewhere, Virginia wouldn’t allow us to register them because there wasn’t enough time left in their school year, so we were stuck. I withdrew the kids and sent them to my sister-in-law in Georgia to finish out the school year,” she relays.

Sherri had a different challenge when leaving Germany. “We stayed a week after so the boys would hit the magic date to complete the school year,” she remembers. “School was no issue but the Army side of it was far more complicated.”

School Liaison Officer

Did you know that each installation has a school liaison officer? I reached out to Erin Schnitger here at Fort Huachcua to get some advice. “Know your rights,” is what she suggested first and foremost. “All 50 states have signed the Interstate Compact. This is a HUGE tool for military families. Just today, I had to use that document at the high school when they were not supporting a military impacted junior.” She also recommended these additional steps for military families:

  • Hand carry your student’s records – although schools may push back on this, the Compact authorizes military families to do so. (Don’t pack them, keep them with you!)
  • Have the old school’s address, point of contact, and phone number written down.
  • Know the state laws on education for both the state you are leaving and the state you are entering.
  • State assessments are something you want to make sure you learn about, particularly for high school students.
  • For special needs students, make sure you have the current IEP, all benchmark evaluations, and the contact information for the support they received in the school and medically.

Most families agree that if it is at all possible to delay a move until the summer that would be the first choice. Perhaps sending your service member ahead for a week or two may also be an option. Barring that, it can be an uphill battle to ensure your child is getting everything they are entitled to as a military child moving from one state to another. Educate yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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PCSgrades AuthorRebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSGrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. Follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com.

Rebecca Alwine