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Schools attendance policy changes worry some parents

May 15, 2002|BY JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Several parents voiced concerns about and suggested changes Tuesday night to a proposed tightening of the Washington County Board of Education's policy that allows students to attend schools outside their regular attendance areas.

If approved, the policy could result in a number of students being sent back to their home schools. Under the proposal, the School Board could issue a moratorium on special permissions for a specific school. The School Board is trying to contain class size, particularly at the elementary level.

The board will discuss the proposed changes at a work session next Tuesday and might vote whether to approve it at the 7 p.m. regular voting session.

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Some parents at the informational meeting in the School Board's auditorium on Commonwealth Avenue asked that the policy changes be delayed so they wouldn't go into effect for the upcoming school year.

After listening to more than 20 other parents speak up, parent Jenni Hatcher said it sounded like making the changes for the 2002-03 school year would put additional strain on students, parents and teachers.

More than 40 parents attended the meeting and many were confused about deadlines for special permission forms, whether they had to wait for new forms, and how they would find day care for their children if denied special permission under the proposed policy.

Many parents who would be affected by the proposal didn't attend the meeting, Hatcher said.

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

"If I were the board, I wouldn't feel comfortable making this decision this year," Hatcher said.

To pull a child out of a day-care program he has attended for years could be "devastating," said parent Michael Bowles. Bowles and his wife, Lori, have a son in first grade who attends Boonsboro Elementary rather than Sharpsburg Elementary because his day care is in the Boonsboro district.

Recognizing that it is difficult to find day care, School Board member Dori Nipps said School Board officials may consider whether afterschool day-care programs held at public schools could be expanded.

Some parents have already turned in or have special permission forms for the upcoming school year. If the policy changes, affecting the 2002-03 school year, a notice will be sent home with students to notify parents they need to pick up the new special permission form.

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