Johnston County

Johnston alters transfer policy, caps 24 schools for next year

The Johnston County Board of Education has unanimously passed a slight narrowing of its student-transfer policy.

Now students looking to attend a school outside their feeder pattern can’t cite a specific class or medical hardship as the reason. School leaders say the aim is to treat medical hardships more on a case-by-case basis, and they note that transferring for a specific class is increasingly unnecessary because of fewer differences between class offerings in schools today than in years past.

Director of administrative services Dolores Gill said the district would soon add further regulation to the policy. “We do plan to add some regulations to clarify a couple instances, such as this would not include our application-based programs, such as Early College, IB or fire academy,” she said.

School board member Teresa Grant asked about a student wanting to join the dance program at Smithfield-Selma High School. Gill made it clear the new policy draws the distinction exactly there.

“I think any of the items that may not be spelled out in a regulation would be considered an individual family’s hardship, and they could certainly submit a reassignment form and put that down as a particular reason they are interested in,” Gill said.

School board member Peggy Smith said a better way of viewing the policy is that the district will allow students to transfer for programs, but not individual courses. Now the policy simply allows families to demonstrate a hardship or be an employee of the school system.

Sports can be vulnerabilities in transfer policies, with critics suggesting that gifted athletes shop for better teams rather than better academic offerings. School board member Butler Hall drew up a hypothetical of an all-state quarterback looking to transfer high schools because one school offered Russian and one didn’t. Superintendent Ross Renfrow said that’s exactly the kind of transfer the district looks to block, and he said that will soon become irrelevant as the school system expands its video classroom offerings.

“Our goal through (the digital classroom) Vidgio and the platform is to remove this barrier,” Renfrow said, noting the district used to get a lot of applications from lovers of the Italian language seeking a transfer. “Things we can broadcast throughout the district will help us decrease this kind of reassignment. Something that is high participatory, like dance, they probably can’t get dance through Vidgio; they might actually have to be there.”

Renfrow reiterated that if a home school doesn’t offer a program like dance and it can’t be learned any other way at the home school, the school system would likely consider the transfer.

“It would be my interpretation that if my home school does not have a program ... I would be able to reassign, get it approved to the school that does have it,” Renfrow said.

Renfrow expects the district to be able to expand opportunities for students with more video-based classrooms.

“With the online platform, we can broadcast Italian into all of our classrooms; therefore there’d be no reason for the reassignment,” Renfrow said.

24 schools capped

Last month, the school board also approved its list of capped schools for the next year, adding one more over last year for a total of 24. Students cannot transfer into these schools for any reason because their enrollment is nearing capacity. Assistant superintendent Rodney Peterson said the threshold is 95 percent or greater for projected capacity.

The list is the same as last year, with the addition of North Johnston High School. Clayton Middle, Cleveland Middle and McGee’s Crossroads Middle are all included, Peterson said, because the district does not yet know how the new Swift Creek Middle in the Cleveland community will affect enrollment.

Capped elementary schools are Benson, Cleveland, Cooper, Corinth-Holders, Dixon Road, Four Oaks, McGee’s Crossroads, Polenta, River Dell, Riverwood, West Clayton and West View. Capped middle schools are Archer Lodge, Clayton, Cleveland, Four Oaks, McGee’s Crossroads, Riverwood, Selma and Smithfield. Capped high schools are Cleveland, Corinth Holders, South Johnston and North Johnston.