Wake Ed

Wake County school board approves changes to transfer policy

Students crowd a stairway as classes change at Heritage High School in Wake Forest NC on Sept. 10, 2015. Complaints about Heritage being overcrowded because of the large number of transfer students led to changes in the Wake County’s student transfer policy.
Students crowd a stairway as classes change at Heritage High School in Wake Forest NC on Sept. 10, 2015. Complaints about Heritage being overcrowded because of the large number of transfer students led to changes in the Wake County’s student transfer policy. cseward@newsobserver.com

The Wake County school board approved Tuesday changes that could make it harder for parents to transfer their children into different schools this fall, especially if they’re trying to leave an under-enrolled school or get into a crowded school.

The revised transfer policy gives student assignment staff more authority to reject transfer requests. With requests that aren’t subject to automatic approval, staff would balance the best interests of the child versus the impact the transfer would have on the schools involved.

The new policy also expands the number of crowded schools that wouldn’t take new transfer students. This list of schools “presumptively closed to transfers” would be in addition to the list of schools that are formally placed under enrollment caps. The presumptively closed list will be presented in April.

An additional change would put students who have already transferred on notice that they’re subject to being reassigned, a situation they normally wouldn’t face.

“We don’t want to approve quite a number of transfers that will only lead to an overcrowded school in the future,” school board member Jim Martin said when the policy was given initial approval Jan. 5.

The policy changes came about after parents at Heritage High School in Wake Forest successfully opposed a proposal to reassign students to Rolesville High School. Staff had said the reassignments would ease crowding at Heritage, but parents said that the problem was caused by the school having too many transfer students.

Martin, chair of the board’s policy committee, said the changes will result in prioritization of base students over transfer students. Martin also said the changes show Wake will take a longer-term view of a school’s capacity when transfer requests are reviewed.

“We want to make sure that choice is available where appropriate,” Martin said. “But we just can’t fill a school with transfer students, particularly at the expense of base students.”

Martin highlighted other changes in the policy, including how school employees who live outside Wake County will now automatically be allowed to have their children attend the school where they work or a school at the appropriate grade level. He also said the policy make clear that parents are expected to provide their own transportation if their child’s transfer is approved.

School board member Christine Kushner also said that the changes will create more seats in the calendar-option schools when families apply in February.

The changes go into effect with the early transfer period that starts in February. But the major policy changes would cover hardship transfer requests filed in May.

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