Enrolling Special Education Students

Special Education: How to Apply

Children identified with a disability that affects their education may be eligible for special education services and an Individual Education Program (IEP). An IEP may include specialized academic instruction, related services, the use of supplementary aids and services, curriculum accommodations and modifications, and other individually determined services.

How do students with special education needs apply for school?

Students with an IEP may be required to submit an enrollment application if they are new to SFUSD, entering a transitional grade (TK, kindergarten, sixth and ninth), Access/Transition Services, transferring to another school, or if there are changes to their special education needs. The same SFUSD enrollment application is used for all students. Families should attach their student’s IEP (if available) to the application and meet with a Special Education placement counselor.

Most students with disabilities can apply to attend a school of their choice. Although certain highly specialized services for disabilities are only available at specific schools, all schools have some special education services available. Families should complete the enrollment application and list any school preferences by the specified enrollment deadlines to receive their child’s school choice.

To find the locations of specialized classrooms and services families can use the SFUSD School Finder or pages 124-130 in the 2023-2024 SFUSD Enrollment Guide. For more information about the types of specialized classrooms and services offered visit www.sfusd.edu/sped. The locations of specialized programs and services at schools are subject to change. For the latest information, schedule a meeting with a special education enrollment counselor.

Outside of the regular enrollment period, the Educational Placement Center (EPC) will assign students to schools that meet their educational needs and have seats available. Students with special needs or mobility, vision or hearing impairments and who request to be in the same school as their siblings will receive a sibling tiebreaker preference as long as their selected school also provides the special education services required in their IEPs.


Does your child need special education services?

If you think that your child may need special education services, please visit the Special Education Assessment page of this website.

Need help?

Special Education placement counselors at the EPC are available to assist with enrollment. Appointments are recommended but not required. Call 415-355-6995 to make an appointment.

Information about the application process and the location of classrooms is also available in our SFUSD 23-24 Enrollment Guides:  English | Español | 中文 | Tiếng Việt | عربي Tagalog | Samoa

A summary of the information in our enrollment guide can be found in the slides from our enrollment workshops. English | Español | 中文 

Types of Special Education Placements and Services

Special Education services are bound by state and federal mandates to ensure students eligible for special education have meaningful access to general education (peers & instruction) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) to meet their unique needs.  The LRE is a continuum that fluctuates for each student in light of changing educationally based needs  This LRE continuum expresses  how much access a student has to general education courses and peers while still making meaningful progress in their individualized education program.

General Education with Supports (TK-12)

General Education-based services are available at every TK-12 school. This service offers the necessary accommodations, modifications and supplementary aids and supports designated in a student’s IEP. Students are assigned to the general education classroom for the majority of the school day.

Related Services (TK-12)

Related Services are available at every TK-12 school. Related Services provide specific and specialized instructional supports that increase access to core curriculum and grade-level peers. Students requiring only Related Services are assigned to the general education classroom for most of the day. However, Related Services may be delivered in a separate education setting per the student’s IEP. Related Services are:

  • Speech and language services
  • Audiological services
  • Augmentative and alternative communication
  • Orientation and mobility
  • Vision services
  • Adaptive physical education
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Assistive technology
  • Counseling and mental health services
  • Vocational education and career development

Resource Specialist Services (TK-12)

These services are available at every TK-12 school for students with disabilities and assigned to the general education classroom for most of the school day. The services focus on accessing grade-level content with grade-level peers, as well as individualized instructional supports. Each student is assigned a special education teacher (also called an Education Specialist), who is the student’s case manager. Resource Specialist services may be provided in the general education classroom and/or a separate setting as indicated in the student’s IEP. Students with low incidence disabilities may receive all, or a portion of their instruction, in a regular class and/or may also be enrolled in a separate class to receive specialized academic instruction as indicated in IEP.

Special Day Class (SDC)/Separate Class (TK-12)

Special Day Classes are for students who require separate class instruction and a smaller class size for the majority of the day. These classes are offered at select SFUSD schools. Students in separate classes for the majority of the day are assigned to a multi-grade classroom with a special education teacher. Instruction focuses on students accessing common core standards through accommodations, modifications and specialized academic instruction. SDC classrooms are assigned additional adult support.

Access - Adult Transition Program (ages 18-22)

Students eligible for Access, the Adult Transition Program, are on track for a Certificate of Completion at the end of 12th grade. Access programming includes post-secondary education, employment, and independent living skills. Individual student needs, strengths, preferences and interests inform IEP services for instruction, related services, community experiences, employment development, and other post-school adult living objectives. SFUSD students on IEPs are eligible for special education services through Access until they are 22 years of age or complete a high school diploma.


This page was last updated on February 2, 2023