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School crowding limits transfer options

Spokane area parents wanting to move their children to a different public school have just weeks to apply for admission, but many schools say there’s no room for outsiders.

The transfer process, known as “choicing in” runs through April at most Spokane area schools, leaving the districts the better part of spring to determine how many employees they’ll need next fall.

But already 14 schools in Mead and Central Valley school districts are telling parents there’s no room. Never mind the outsiders, said Cal Johnson, executive director for student services at Mead School District. At least two schools there aren’t accepting students from in-district, which in other areas is a fairly easy move.

“We are shuttling kids to other buildings because we don’t have room,” Johnson said.

For in-district students, Evergreen and Midway elementary schools are closed to students wanting to choice into those schools, and nearly every elementary building is busing kids in some grade levels to other nearby schools, he said.

A new elementary school set to open in 2007 will help alleviate Mead’s problems. The district is currently not accepting out-of-district transfers. Because of excessive growth the district has turned away as many as 200 nonresident elementary school students who have applied for enrollment in recent years.

In Spokane Valley, parents are being told not to bother applying to Greenacres and Liberty Lake elementary schools, Bowdish, Evergreen and Greenacres middle schools and University and Central Valley high schools. Six of the schools regularly turn on the no vacancy sign this time of year, but Central Valley High School is a new addition.

School district officials are forecasting a gradual rise in enrollment at the high school on South Sullivan Road. Elementary and middle schools feeding into Central Valley High School have been near capacity for years; those students will soon be moving on to high school. The high school might have room next year, but may need the space before any “choice in” students reach graduation.

“We’re just being proactive,” said Lynn Trantow, Central Valley School Board chairwoman. “In order to have space available for new families, we need to do this now.”

The move at Central Valley High School is part of a bigger plan to deal with a regional shift in the district’s student population, Trantow said. Already, roughly 60 percent of Central Valley School District students live east of Sullivan Avenue. The percentage is only expected to increase as more than 2,000 new homes are constructed on that end of the district between Sullivan Road and Liberty Lake. Conversely, Trantow said, enrollment at University High School is expected to begin declining. The district has anticipated the change for some time.

A strong minority of voters in Central Valley School District just recently prevented the passage of a $55.2 million construction bond for new schools and several remodeling projects within the district. Passage of that bond would not have helped Central Valley with its current choicing problem, Trantow said.

Central Valley is asking that parents already in the district submit a written request for their child to transfer by April 15. Parents outside the district have until May 1. Within five days of the respective application deadlines, each school will hold a lottery to select students. The results will be mailed to each applicant.

Neither of Spokane Valley’s other two school districts, West and East Valley, has transfer restrictions. In Spokane public schools, where enrollment has been declining, the rules are very different than in Mead and Central Valley. In-district students and non-resident students are free to apply for enrollment at any school, where there is room. Preference is given to students living in-district.

The district accepts applications from in-district students until March 31, and then considers non-resident applications, said David Beil, a district spokesman.

“They are looking at staffing and enrollment capacity at each building right now,” Beil said. “They are trying to look at the districtwide picture to determine whether or not they can fulfill the requests.”

Currently, all schools are accepting students, he said. Last year Lewis and Clark High School and Shadle Park were not accepting transfers from students who lived outside the school boundaries because those schools were full.

That will depend on space as enrollment changes in the coming months.

While there is really no timeline to apply, parents of secondary students in grades seven through 12 will be notified by May 30 if there is room at the school of their choice, and elementary students will be notified by June 1. Anyone submitting later requests will have to get permission from the principal of the particular school, Beil said.

“The way I interpret it, the sooner you get it (an application) in, the better you are going to be,” Beil said.


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