About 465 seats in the Appoquinimink School District could be made available to school choice students next year, according to the latest estimates by district officials.

About 465 seats in the Appoquinimink School District could be made available to school choice students next year, according to the latest estimates by district officials.

"That number could change, but that's our most up-to-date estimate based on current enrollment, statistical models and census data," said Jeff Klein, the school district's coordinator of research, development and evaluation.

Starting with the 2014-2015 school year, the Appoquinimink School District will begin allowing students to "choice" into local schools, as required by a state law approved by the Delaware General Assembly last June.

Most districts in the state previously allowed students who live outside their feeder patterns to choice into their schools. But for nearly 20 years, Appoquinimink denied most of those requests due to limited space availability, with exceptions made only for the children of district employees and students moving from one in-district school to another.

Last month, the school board approved a new set of procedures that – for the first time – established the criteria and method by which they would allow children living outside the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend area to enroll in district schools.

As required by law, students will only be allowed to choice into schools deemed to be at or below 85 percent of "instructional capacity," a term that excludes non-classroom space and rooms currently dedicated to certain programs, such as world languages and computer labs.

Klein said consideration also was given to grade level sizes to avoid over- or undersized "bubbles" at any given school.

According to the latest calculations, seven of the district's 15 schools would have space available for school choice students next year.

Bunker Hill Elementary School is expected to have the most space available of any district school next year with 100 seats between its anticipated enrollment of 538 and its instructional capacity limit of 638.

Cedar Lane Elementary could have as many as 71 seats, followed by what is expected to be a newly-reopened Townsend Elementary with 58 seats, Brick Mill Elementary with 52 seats and Old State Elementary 19 seats.

Olive B. Loss and Silver Lake elementary schools, meanwhile, are expected to be above their instructional capacity, and therefore closed to school choice students.

Alfred G. Waters and Redding Middle School also are expected to be closed to school choice, while Everett Meredith Middle School could have about 66 seats available.

Both Appoqunimink and Middletown high schools are expected to be above their instructional capacity next year, with Appoquinimink High's anticipated enrollment of 1,632 students pushing it beyond its total building capacity of 1,570.

But Klein said that could change depending on how many of the district's students transfer to MOT Charter School, which is slated to offer ninth grade for the first time next year.

More seats also could be available in Kindergarten classrooms at the district's three early childhood centers.

Based on this year's student enrollment, Townsend Early Childhood Center would have 87 seats available and Spring Meadow would have 11, while Cedar Lane Early Childhood Center would be close to school choice.

But, Klein said, it is difficult to project future student enrollment at that grade level.

Families of prospective school choice students began filing applications on Nov. 5.

Klein said the district has received about 320 applications so far. However, the majority have been submitted on behalf of choice students already in the district, or student who are seeking to choice from one district school to another, he said.

Both groups will be given preference over new choice students seeking to relocate from other districts, according to the procedures approved last month.

School choice students in first through twelfth grades have until 4 p.m. on Jan. 9 to submit an application, while kindergarten students have until the first day of the 2014-2015 school year. Applications are available at www.schoolchoicede.org or at the district office.

If the district receives more applications for a given school than it has seats available, a computer lottery will be used to determine which school choice students are accepted, with the remaining children assigned a random slot on a waiting list.

The Appoquinimink school board must approve school choice applications by Feb. 11 and parents will be informed by Feb. 21.