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Can we convince parents to stay put, for kids' sake?

October 20, 2003

Remember when you were young, and you had to go to a new school? Do you remember the questions you thought about way back when?

Will my new classmates like me? Will I ever see my old friends again? Will I have a nice teacher or a mean one? Will I remember how to get from my classroom to the bathroom and back again?

Those students who are lucky face these questions only a couple of times in their school careers, when they move from elementary to middle school and from there to high school.

The unlucky ones, however, may change schools twice or more a year, as families move from one place to another, because a relationship went bad or the landlord wouldn't provide enough heat or the rent money couldn't be found.

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It's called the mobility problem. School officials are dealing with it with a countywide reading program they hope will ensure than when a child moves from one school to another, the new teacher will be on the same page in the textbook as the previous teacher was.

But for a child, the question of what page the class is on may be less urgent than the social issues they face being the "new kid" in the classroom. And from a teacher's standpoint, dealing with one new kid after another makes it difficult for the class to become a comfortable group.

We bring this up because last week city and county officials asked those who run the school system how they can help the schools.

We suggest that they assist in developing an informational campaign to educate parents about the harm it does, educationally speaking, to move a child from one school to another.

School officials can help, too, by using records to identify the parents who teachers call "frequent fliers" and talking to them about the detrimental effects of moving while school is in session.

Such a campaign would not prevent every move, because some things are beyond a parent's control, especially when you aren't earning much to begin with. But it might make some parents who have a choice think twice about uprooting a child for less than urgent reasons during the school year.

With some encouragement, they might be persuaded to stay put, for their kids' sake.

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