Believe it or not, the time to plan for kindergarten enrollment next fall is now. But the choices might be overwhelming.
Gone are the days when parents only had to decide whether to walk or drive their students to school. Today, you don't even have to send them to the neighborhood campus.
Here's a look at local education options:
Open enrollment at public schools
Lodi Unified School District uses an interdistrict transfer process where you can apply to attend any school within the district so long as the student has a way to get there.
In grades other than kindergarten, those requests must be submitted by Wednesday. However, the district allows a bit more time for kindergartners, Catherine Pennington, assistant superintendent, said.
The requests are honored on a space-available basis. Pick up an application at the district office, 1305 E. Vine St., or at your neighborhood school.
The Galt elementary school district also offers open enrollment through the school of choice process. It is accepting applications through Feb. 28.
Applications are available at each school, the district office and online at www.galt.k12.ca.us.
All students entering public schools for the first time are required to be up-to-date on their booster shots. A birth certificate and proof of residency is often required.
There are also age guidelines set by the state. Enrollment in kindergarten requires that a child must be 4 years and 9 months of age by Aug. 1, 2012. The birth date must have been on or before Nov. 1, 2007.
There are five charter schools within Lodi Unified, but you do not have to live within the district's boundaries to attend. Four of those require winning a public lottery to enroll since space is limited.
At Aspire Public Schools, for example, open enrollment will be held through Feb. 17. It is strongly encouraged that interested parents attend an informational parent tour before the public lottery is held in March.
Check with the specific school for exact dates.
The other two charter schools are Joe Serna Junior Charter School and Rio Valley Charter School, an independent study program. The school also provides oversight for homeschoolers. Learn more at www.riovalley.org.
This area is home to a long list of private parochial schools. The largest that provide elementary instruction beginning with kindergarten include St. Anne's Catholic School, Lodi Academy and Century Christian.
Contact each school for enrollment requirements and annual tuition costs.
While most of the education is done by a parent or other adult within the home, there are local organizations to help guide homeschooler families with curriculum.
Christian Homeschoolers in Lodi, for example, provides networking and socialization opportunities. Visit the group's website at www.chilonline.org for links to resources.
If you don't want to enroll your child in public school and you can't afford private school, online education might be an option.
Through a program like K12 Online Public School, students receive instruction from a credentialed teacher via the Internet. A learning coach, usually a parent, oversees the work and provides lessons.
The program provides the curriculum in the mail. To learn more, visit www.k12.com.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.