Division reviews transfer policy

Posted: December 10, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — City School Board members will review more data before deciding whether to change the policy that allows students to transfer among elementary schools within the division.

The discussions are being held due to capacity issues at the four elementary schools.

The policy, if revised, will take effect in the 2014-15 school year.

The topic was discussed at a Winchester School Board meeting on Monday. No action was taken.

Changes could include reducing the number of out-of-zone approvals to John Kerr Elementary School, requiring that requests be due to educational reasons only, and/or suspending transfers for an indefinite period of time, according to an August memo from Superintendent Rick Leonard.

Transfers from school to school within the city are permitted with the consent of the superintendent and must be based upon, but not limited to, health, hardship, educational need or change in residence. Elementary school principals and the coordinator of instruction meet to review all requests.

Transfers are awarded for a period of one year. Parents are responsible for the transportation of their child to a school other than the one that normally serves their school attendance area.

In the current 2013-14 school year, 62 of 66 transfer requests were approved.

Of the 66 requests, 28 of those came from students at Quarles Elementary School, 17 from Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart, 16 from Frederick Douglass, and five from John Kerr.

Fifty percent of elementary school students/parents asking for a transfer wished to attend John Kerr.

Reasons for approval of transfers this year were child care (46 requests), a continuation from the year before (six), staff issues (three), medical reasons (two), moving (two), siblings (two) and parent work location (one).

None were due to an educational need.

Member Vince Di Benedetto said reasons for requesting a transfer should be “extraordinary and based on educational needs.” He called the child care reason a “very convenient thing.”

“With capacity issues, I don’t think [child care] is a good enough reason,” he said.

Di Benedetto said the policy “looks like something that’s been abused.”

When Leonard proposed doing away with child care as a reason for transferring, member Cynthia Ford expressed dismay.

“Some people don’t know how hard it is to secure day care,” she said, adding that many are overcrowded and have waiting lists.

Member Allyson Pate agreed.

“Some of these children have been in a day care setting prior to enrollment at their school,” she said.

Vice Chairwoman Erica Truban said she wanted to look at which students were going to what facilities before making a decision.

Currently, John Kerr is at capacity with 326 students. Both Quarles and Frederick Douglass elementary schools are slightly over capacity with 536 and 465 students, respectively.

Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart is the only elementary school under capacity, with 471 students in a building that holds 546.

No timeline has been set for a decision on the policy.

Present at the meeting were Chairman John Bishop, Vice-Chairwoman Erica Truban and members Allyson Pate, Richard Bell, Cynthia Ford, Vince Di Benedetto, Melvin Thomas and Minh Le. Mary Margaret Wise was not present.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com