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Schools’ choice policy altered

Sat., Jan. 26, 2013, midnight

Change holds seats for neighborhood kids, extends wait for others

Parents of most Spokane Public Schools students still will be able to choose the school their child attends under a policy adopted by the school board this week.

The policy also will ensure that neighborhood kids can attend their neighborhood school.

The approval brings closure to an issue that started brewing last spring when a few children who live in the Wilson Elementary School neighborhood were unable to attend that school.

An intradistrict transfer policy that basically allows parents to choose the school they want their child to attend, no matter which school boundary the family lives in, sometimes leaves the K-6 schools too full to accommodate the nearest students.

The new policy keeps intact the liberal “choicing” option, which is not common in two of the region’s other large districts, Central Valley and Mead.

“I think it’s a win-win,” said Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger. “It addressed the different concerns that were brought forward.”

Tweaks made to the policy included a change to the date by which parents are notified their transfer requests are approved. Previously, that approval came on June 15. Under the new policy, transfer requests will be provisionally approved on June 15 based on enrollment per grade level, said school board President Bob Douthitt. At least 5 percent of the seats in a school will be held open to accommodate kids whose families move into the neighborhood over the summer, Douthitt said.

Those who are provisionally approved will be given a number indicating whether they are high or low on the list. Once a certain number of students on that list is reached, a waiting list will be started.

In mid-August, all parents will be notified of their child’s status.

“If a small amount of kids moved into the neighborhood, then all the provisional students would get in,” Douthitt said. “If no kids move into the neighborhood, then the provisional students, plus some kids from the waiting list, will be let in.”

Once a child choices into a school, he or she won’t be forced to transfer even if the school fills up the next year.

About 1,500, or 10 percent, of Spokane Public Schools’ elementary school population are choice students, attending a school outside their residential area.

“We wanted to protect as much as we could the ability of kids who move into the neighborhood to be able to go to the school in the neighborhood,” Douthitt said. “And we wanted to treat all the kids in the school the same, so once you’re in, you’re in.”

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