School policy calls for attending neighborhood school

The Board of Education adopted a revised school attendance area policy by a vote of 6-4 this week, reinforcing the idea that students must attend the school in their district.

However, the revised policy comes with grandfathering clauses that will allow students, and their siblings in some cases, who are already attending schools other than their assigned schools to stay there until they have completed that elementary, middle or high school.

In recent weeks some parents protested what they saw as a school policy change that would prohibit them from requesting that their child go to a school other than the one to which they are assigned.

School officials, however, said they weren’t changing the policy, just clarifying it.

School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser said school attendance areas are determined by the Board of Education and that the policy in place since 1995 stated that students must attend the school in the attendance area where they lived.

“It has been interpreted differently over the years, resulting in inconsistency of practice which has prompted concerns,” according to minutes from an earlier school board meeting.

For example, students assigned to Jonathan Law High School have received permission over the past years to attend Foran High School instead, and vice versa, for various reasons.

Dr. Feser proposed revisions to the policy to clarify it, and after several changes, the board adopted the revised policy at a meeting Monday night.

School Board Chairman Susan Glennon said she believes the revised policy addresses the issues that parents raised in recent weeks.

“We listened to the concerns of parents and accommodated them,” Glennon said.

The revised policy states, as the previous policy stated, that a student must attend the school in his or her attendance area.

However, if a family moves after the start of the school year, the student may continue to attend the school they had been attending until they have completed that elementary, middle or high school. Then the student must attend his or her assigned school.

In all cases a younger sibling will be permitted to attend a school out of his or her attendance area if an older sibling is at the school at the same time.

The policy also states that any student granted permission to attend an out of attendance area school for 2015-16, and those granted permission for 2016-17, will be grandfathered and can stay until they have completed that elementary, middle or high school.

The grandfather provision applies to younger siblings, as long as the younger sibling will be in the school at the same time as the older sibling.

During the process of revising the policy, Dr. Feser said that when the school board reconfigured and redistricted the elementary schools, the board developed criteria with the desire to balance enrollment to ensure parity in available resources across schools. She said administration believed the attendance policy needed to be revised to honor those goals.