Fast Facts

  •  The Cottonwood School is an independent, publicly funded charter school offering programs for students in TK-12. We are required by state law to follow the same rules as traditional California public schools when it comes to state testing, grade-level standards, and attendance, but offer flexible education options not found in traditional schools.
  • Because we are a public school, our educational programs are free of charge. We do not charge tuition.
  • The Cottonwood School is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • Our educational offerings include home-based independent study for grades TK-12 and Cottonwood College Prep Academy: A Hybrid High School Pathway. CCPA is a Montessori-inspired pathway where students follow their natural curiosity to learn.
  • Every student enrolled in the Homestudy Pathway is assigned an HST (homeschool teacher), a credentialed teacher who partners with the parent to oversee the student’s education. The parent/guardian serves as the student’s primary teacher. HSTs meet with their students/families at least once every 20 school days.
  • The Cottonwood School does not have a single specific curriculum; students and families work with their assigned HST to develop individualized learning plans that fit the student’s learning style and educational needs.
  • Students receive an instructional funds budget each year to use for educational materials, curriculum, and classes. Funds may not be used for sectarian materials. For the 2023-24 school year, the budget for homeschooled students is $2400 for TK, $2800 for grades K-8, and $3200 for grades 9-12. (There are two funding periods in a school year – July 1 and December 1. Funds are pro-rated for students who enroll after the first day of school.)
  • Enrollment is not guaranteed. We have an open enrollment period each spring. At the end of that period, if we have more interest than we have space, a lottery will be held for available spaces.
  • Counties served: Alpine, Amador, El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento




1. How do I apply?

You can apply by visiting the enrollment page of our website.

Please do not disenroll your child from their current school until your acceptance is confirmed. Submitting an application does not guarantee admission or constitute enrollment with The Cottonwood School. Students are not considered enrolled until they have completed the enrollment packet and have signed the Independent Study Agreement.

2. What documents do I need to submit with my enrollment application?
Required Enrollment Document checklist:

  1. Student Enrollment Application (A full application or link will be sent to you with the offer email)
  2. Copy of minimum age requirement verification (Birth certificate, passport, etc.)
  3. Proof of Residency within the counties we serve (El Dorado, Placer, Alpine, Amador, Sacramento) – Please provide one of the following in its entirety :
    – Utility bill – full and complete, missing pages will not be accepted (Gas, electricity, home phone, cable)
    – Property Tax receipt from current year
    – Current Mortgage/rental agreement (must include all signature pages)
    – Current home or rental insurance agreement. Contracts must have the signature page. Contracts older than 90 days must be accompanied by documentation from the landlord stating the agreement is still in effect.
    – Correspondence from a government agency (CalWorks, Social Security, Medi-Cal)**If you are unable to provide these documents due to your living situation, you may still be eligible under federal and state law to enroll your child in school. Please see the following flyers for more information.


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  4. Immunization Records (Vaccinations are NOT a requirement of enrollment in a non-classroom-based charter school. However, all students are required to have a copy of immunization records on file. A signed blank form is acceptable.)
  5. Academic Records for students in 8-12th grades (report card and/or transcripts)
  6. Copy of 504 and/or IEP (if applicable)
  7. Caregiver Affidavit/Court Orders (If applicable)

3. When can I enroll my child in kindergarten?
To start kindergarten a child must turn five on or before September 2nd.

4. Do you offer Transitional Kindergarten ?
Yes, we offer a TK program based on the following policies:

For the 2023-24 school year, TK will be offered for students who turn 5 between September 2, 2023  – April 2, 2024.

TK students are required to submit an immunization record if one exists, in accordance with Senate Bill 277. Records will be accepted whether complete or incomplete.

TK students are required to have a completed health exam and oral health exam for school entry.

5. What is your immunization policy?
Under California state law, all students attending a public school must be vaccinated, but students enrolled in a non-classroom based charter school are exempt from vaccination requirements. However, non-classroom based charter schools, including The Cottonwood School, are not exempt from continuing to collect, maintain, and report immunizations every year. Parents of students in our Homestudy Pathway are required to submit immunization information to school, even if the records are incomplete.

Students who attend our site-based high school must show proof of vaccination in order to attend the program.

6. Does your school have a Special Education program?
Yes. The Cottonwood School is committed to providing free and appropriate quality special education (SPED) services to students who qualify under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004). Special Education is a program designed to support the unique educational needs of children with disabilities who meet the eligibility criteria under the law.

7. Can my child be enrolled in another school while attending?
No. California law prohibits dual enrollment. However, you can apply to The Cottonwood School while enrolled in or applying for other schools. Once your child is officially enrolled, you must unenroll with any other school(s), whether they are public or private.

High school students may attend The Cottonwood School while taking classes at a community college under a concurrent enrollment agreement. This is not dual enrollment.

8. If my child is accepted and attends The Cottonwood School, will they be eligible to attend a traditional school again at a later date?
Yes. Attending a public charter school does not eliminate your right to enroll your child in another public school at a later time.

9. What happens after I submit my enrollment forms?
In spring The Cottonwood School has an open enrollment period. During this time students may apply to enroll. Once submitted, you will receive an automatic confirmation. We will keep your form submission on file until the open enrollment period ends. Once the open enrollment period ends, we will confirm if space is available for your students(s).

If the number of applications we receive exceeds the number of spaces available, we will hold a lottery. In-person attendance is not required to participate in the lottery. If you receive a space, the enrollment team will email you a link to complete the registration process.

New enrollment applications submitted after the open enrollment period will be placed on a waitlist. Oftentimes there are immediate openings. Our enrollment team will reach out to waitlisted applicants ASAP.

Once we receive a complete enrollment packet with ALL required documents, the application will be processed and you will receive a notification.

You will be assigned an HST and will be asked to sign an independent study agreement. Your student is not officially enrolled until you sign the independent study agreement.

10. I have enrollment questions that aren’t answered here and would like to talk to a real person. Who should I contact?
Please email or call 530-285-2003


Working with a Homeschool Teacher (HST)

1. Can I request a specific HST?
During the application process you will be able to request an HST. If you do not request an HST, our enrollment team will work to match you with an HST that will fit your needs.

2. When can I meet with my HST?
Once your student is assigned to an HST, he or she will contact you to set up an initial enrollment meeting. After your initial meeting, you will meet with your HST a minimum of once every 20 school days.

3. Where will I meet with my HST?
You and your HST will work together to decide on a location that works for both of you for in-person meetings. This may be your home or a public location (local library, coffee shop, etc.). You may also meet virtually for some meetings with your HST via ZOOM teleconference.

4. I want to have a long-term partnership with an HST. Can we keep the same HST for the entire time my student is at The Cottonwood School?
Yes. Our goal is to partner you with an HST with whom you can build a long-term relationship. We try to avoid changing HSTs when possible.

5. I don’t think our assigned HST is a good fit for our family. Can we request a different one?
Yes. We want to make sure all of our families have a good working relationship with their HST. If you would like to request a different HST, you may reach out to our Associate Director to discuss this.

6. How long/often are the meetings with our HST?
Meetings are typically about 1 hour per student, every 20 school days.

Instructional Funding

1. How does school funding work?
The state of CA funds charter schools based on average daily student attendance (ADA), and fund rates are subject to change each year based on the state budget.

All non-consumable materials purchased with instructional funds are the property of the school and must be returned upon leaving our school. Parents will be responsible to pay for materials lost, stolen, damaged, or not returned to the school.

2. What are consumables and non-consumables?
Products or services that a student uses completely so they are not usable by another student is a “consumable.” Examples of consumables might be paper, subscriptions, field trips, etc. Items that can be used by another student are non-consumable. Examples of non-consumable items are books, computers, or microscopes. Non-consumable items must be returned to the school at the end of the year. Consumable items must be returned if a student leaves before the school year concludes.

3. How often are instructional funds dispersed and how much is allocated to each student?
Instructional funds are dispersed twice a year, on July 1 and December 1. For the 2023-24 school year, the allocation is $2,400 for TK, $2,800 for grades K–8, and $3,200 for grades 9–12. Parents can access the funds through an online ordering system that allows them to purchase instructional materials and educational services.

4. Can I use instructional funds to pay for my child’s team sports, such as his or her soccer team or baseball team?
No. Funds can’t be used to pay for team sports. They can, however, be used to pay for lessons from an approved vendor to teach specific skills (e.g., gymnastics, martial arts).

5. Can I be reimbursed for the curriculum I have already purchased or registration fees I have already paid?
No. Parents can’t be reimbursed with state funding for out-of-pocket expenses. All purchases using instructional funds must be made through the online ordering system.

6. Can I use the funds for my child’s extracurricular activities?
Yes, you can use instructional funds for extracurricular activities that are available through approved vendors if the student’s educational needs in core academics (math, English Language arts, science, and history) have been met. Academic materials should be purchased before anything extracurricular.

7. What happens if I lose or break something that was purchased with instructional funds?
You will work with our school to determine next steps. In some cases you will have to pay to replace the lost or broken item.

8. Can I purchase sectarian/religious curriculum with my instructional funds?
No. The Cottonwood School is a publicly funded charter school, and state funds may not be used to purchase sectarian/religious material.


Vendor Information

1. Do you have an approved vendor list?
Yes. You can see the approved vendor list on our website under Community Partners and in our ordering system catalog.

2. Does a vendor have to be in the system prior to the first day of school or can they be added during the school year?
Vendors can be added throughout the school year. Prospective vendors can apply here.


Learning Records

1. What type of reporting/documentation are homeschool parents required to maintain?
Parents will keep track of attendance and daily engagement is tracked and marked by the parent and is verified by the HST.

Parents will also keep track of concepts and activities covered during each learning period and will report these to their HST.

A sample of the student’s work must be submitted during each learning period. Samples may include written work, demonstrations or images with a description.

Your HST must interact with the student and/or view the full body of student work at each meeting.

2. Why do I have to submit samples of my child’s work?
Students are required to work toward state-mandated standards, and HSTs must be able to verify that the student is making satisfactory progress towards state standards. This is an audit requirement.

3. Can my student earn college credits while in high school?
Yes, high school students can be concurrently enrolled if they meet the attendance criteria of the college they wish to attend. Students must be in The Cottonwood School for a minimum of 20 units and cannot take more than 11 units from a college within a semester. For more information, see our Concurrent Enrollment information here.

4. How many units are required to graduate?
200 credits are required to graduate


Field Trips & Events

1. Do you offer any field trips or other events, and will they be in my area?
Yes! Field trips and activities are planned by HSTs, Community Coordinators, and other school leaders. We offer dozens of events and activities each month. We try to schedule our events in a variety of locations and on different days of the week to allow as many students to participate as possible. You can get an example of the field trips and other events we offer by looking at our event calendar. Enrolled families can access details for these events on our parent intranet, known as the Hawks’ Nest.


Contact Information

The Cottonwood School
3921 Sandstone Drive, Suite 100
El Dorado Hills, CA 95672

Phone: (530) 285-2003
FAX: (530) 285-2004