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School policy may be changed

April 23, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education is considering tightening a policy that allows students to attend schools outside of their regular attendance areas, a move that may send a number of students back to their home schools.

About 1,200 students currently receive special permission to attend school outside of their home districts.

William McKinley, executive director of support services, said the School Board is trying to contain class size, particularly at the elementary level, by devising more stringent special permission guidelines.

"It has the potential to send some kids back," McKinley said.

McKinley said he didn't know how many students might have to go back to their regular attendance areas, because the number of special permission applications vary from year to year.

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Under the proposed revisions, an elementary school principal would have the authority to deny students special permission if a grade level reaches 85 percent of the state's capacity guideline of 25 students per class.

That would allow elementary principals to reject students requesting the exception if the class sizes of all the sections of a particular grade level have at least 21 students per class.

Currently, elementary principals usually cut off special permission requests if a grade level reaches 90 percent of the state's capacity guideline, McKinley said.

Secondary school principals would be able to deny special permission requests if a school's enrollment reaches 90 percent of the state's capacity guideline.

School Board member Doris Nipps said the proposed revisions would not apply to students who seek special permission as a result of redistricting.

Students currently may receive special permission for several reasons, such as having baby-sitters or daycare providers outside of their home attendance areas, or for instructional purposes or physical or mental health reasons.

The stricter regulations may help weed out parents who have been violating the policy, school officials have said.

"We want to make sure parents who legitimately qualify for special permission still have the ability to do so," Nipps said. "Maybe some folks in the past were not following that exactly."

Parents would have to apply for special permission by May 1, and a principal would make the decision to grant or reject the application by July 15, under the proposed revisions.

The application must be approved yearly, and there's no guarantee students will be allowed to stay at the same school the following year.

The School Board will hold a town meeting on the policy on May 14 at 7 p.m. at the board's central office. Anyone interested in speaking at the meeting is asked to sign up at the superintendent's office at 301-766-2815.

The policy will be available in schools or on the School Board's Web site by the end of this week. The Web site is www.wcboe.k12.md.us.

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