More than 100 Kent students switching schools

The parents of more than 200 students in eight Kent elementary schools filed last week to have their children placed in other Kent elementary schools, after those eight schools failed to make adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind act.

The parents of more than 200 students in eight Kent elementary schools filed last week to have their children placed in other Kent elementary schools, after those eight schools failed to make adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind act.

A total of 149 students actually will be making the switch.

Merri Reiger, Kent’s assistant superintendent for learning and instructional services, said Thursday that parents of 202 students notified the district of their intention to take advantage of what’s called the “public school choice option.” That option is a provision that kicks in when a school does not make “adequate yearly progress” under federal guidelines, and it enables parents to have their child attend a different school. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools that are receiving federal funds but don’t make progress for two consecutive years must offer parents the chance to move their children to a school that does make adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

The end result, she said, is that 149 students will be switching elementary schools this fall – down from the original 202 whose parents filed for transfers. District officials had followed up with phone calls to each family requesting a transfer, and after their discussions, nearly 50 parents opted to keep their children in their original schools.

The following elementary schools in Kent didn’t make the AYP grade: Neely-O’Brien, Scenic Hill, Park Orchard, Springbrook, Easthill, Jenkins Creek, Meadow Ridge and Cedar Valley .

Students at those schools had the option of moving to nearby elementary schools that did meet AYP standards: Sawyer Woods, Soos Creek or Glenridge.

As a result, about 45 students will move from Jenkins Ceek and Cedar Valley to Sawyer Woods; 35 will move from Meadow Ridge and Scenic Hill to Soos Creek; and about 80 more will transfer from Neely-O’Brien, Park Orchard and Springbrook to Glenridge.

The district is required by law to provide transportation for students requesting a move.

Reiger said “when the dust settles” the district will have a better idea of actual attendance numbers at its elementaries, but that it is preparing to move staff between buildings to offset the changes in student numbers. Reiger, however, noted the district expects staffing to “even out” among its schools.

According to Nathan Olson, a spokesperson from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in the 2006-2007 school year, 30,816 students statewide were eligible for public school choice, because their schools didn’t make the AYP grade. Of those, 238 applied and 221 were transferred, or less than 1 percent.

This year, a higher number of schools across the state were forced to offer the choice option because the AYP scores they had to pass had been raised.

In Kent, 6.5 percent of students were offered the option of transferring schools, and 4.8 percent are taking advantage of it. Reiger characterized the decision as an “individual family choice” and in talking to the parents, she noted that many saw this an opportunity to go to another school, instead of simply trying to get out of a school that did not meet AYP.

Reiger noted as an example that Easthill Elementary School will be losing more than any other of the eight schools. But of the 38 students transferring from Easthill to Glenridge Elementary, approximately 25 live in a single housing complex. The complex falls within state-mandated boundaries for walking to school and a number of parents there wanted their children on a bus, which the transfer will provide.

The school that will be growing the most due to the choice option is Glenridge, which will see an increase of nearly 80 students.

According to principal Scott Abernathy, the influx of new students and staff is a “wonderful opportunity” for the school.

“We really feel fortunate that so many families have chosen to come to Glenridge,” he said.

The school will have additional volunteers on hand to help out on the first day of school and Abernathy said the school hosted an ice cream social Aug. 27 to give the school’s newest families an opportunity to see the school and meet the staff.

Abernathy said the staff has had to adjust schedules for lunch, as well as for specials like physical education, to deal with the increased student load.

“This has really galvanized our community,” he said. “Our staff has really pulled together.”

Reiger said once final headcounts are finished in October, the district would re-allocate resources and staffing as necessary. She also said the district is continuing to work with the schools that did not make the grade this year.

“The schools in Step 1 are working very hard to help every child increase their academics,” she said.

School begins Sept. 2.

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