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Transfer, open enrollment changes set for 2017-18

School District 833

Boundary changes and enrollment fluctuations have led South Washington County Schools to consider changing its intra-district transfer and open enrollment guidelines for next year.

The plan will open all elementary schools to intra-district transfers in 2017-18, as space is available at each building. That would be a change from recent years when some elementary schools were closed to transfers because of large enrollment from their attendance boundaries.

At the same time, the district is proposing to close five schools to open enrollment from students outside District 833 due to space constraints at those buildings.

The South Washington County School Board is expected to approve the 2017-18 intra-district transfer and open enrollment policies Dec. 1.

Elementary schools such as Bailey and Liberty Ridge have been closed to intra-district transfers in recent years. Opening all grade schools to those transfers next year would come as the district implements new northern elementary attendance boundaries and fully incorporates Valley Crossing Elementary into its grade school system.

In 2017-18, the district will accept intra-district transfers so long as total enrollment at a grade level does not exceed 90 percent of that grade level capacity.

Assistant Superintendent Julie Nielsen told the school board Thursday that a lottery system will be used if there are more intra-district transfer requests than space available.

While some schools have space constraints, others face a different challenge: declining enrollment. The district plans to limit the number of students who want to transfer out of Newport Elementary. That would be a new policy meant to address Newport's dwindling enrollment. It has the smallest building enrollment at about 270 students this year. Most other elementary schools have at least 500 students. Allowing a large number of transfers out of Newport Elementary could dramatically alter some class sizes.

"What we're saying is ... Newport Elementary, with its low enrollment, we would not be moving intra-district students out of there," Nielsen said.

Administrators don't approve intra-district transfers until after staffing decisions are made, and the transfers don't influence those decisions.

"We don't add staff because of that," Superintendent Keith Jacobus said.

Students who seek an intra-district transfer or open enroll into the district must provide their own transportation to school.

While all elementary schools will be open to intra-district transfers, Lake Middle School will be closed to those transfers due to capacity constraints. And the district plans to limit transfers at Oltman, Woodbury and Cottage Grove middle schools. No intra-district transfers will be allowed at East Ridge High School again next year, under the proposed policy.

There also are changes planned for open enrollment.

Seven buildings are closed to open enrollment this year. In 2017-18, five schools will be closed if the policy is approved next month.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Johnson said the proposal would allow no additional open enrollment students next year at Liberty Ridge Elementary School, Cottage Grove and Lake middle schools and East Ridge and Woodbury high schools. Those schools have capacity constraints.

The full intra-district transfer and open enrollment proposal is at " target="_blank">bit.ly/2g1jsc9.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

(651) 459-7600
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