Board alters attendance area rules

The Warren County School District board of directors approved a resolution at its meeting Monday night to “remedy inconsistent terminology” in the attendance boundary policy.

“For purposes of this policy the attendance area in which a parent/guardian is domiciled shall mean the attendance area in which the parent/guardian has fixed his/her family permanent home and principal establishment and to which, whenever he/she is absent, he/she has the intention of returning. By law, a person can have only one domicile and a new domicile can be acquired only by physical presence at a new residence coupled with an intent to live in the new residence permanently and to abandon the prior domicile. Whether said intent is present shall be determined by the actual facts, not what a parent/guardian declares the facts to be…” section 10102 part three, assignment of students to school reads.

Superintendent Dr. William Clark said he would like to revise the district attendance policy in its entirety and attendance areas are something that come up every year around the time of student enrollment. He said last week alone he had at least a half dozen inquiries and three so far this week on residency requirements and concerns.

“I know the attendance boundaries are something we need to take a look at, and I’ve had that discussion with transportation, looking at grandfathering and then cycling people out. I think that’s a much grayer area than what you have here which is the definition of terms, which is what we asked clarification for from counsel,” Clark said. “The goal was to get a better definition for the residency requirement for domicile, I think that was the critical piece for me…”

Clark said he would provide numbers at a future committee meeting, and believed there were only a couple of instances which the administration would have to go back and examine.

“I don’t think the impact would be that huge,” he said.

Board Secretary Ruth Huck said she thought implementation would affect four students in two different families.

“Denied applicants are applying for non-temporary residence to circumvent the policy,” she said.

Solicitor Christopher Byham said the administration approached him about student attendance areas and general concerns about parents using the temporary residence to control which school students attend. The current policy “uses an inconsistent terminology” by using residence, resides and permanent residence.

“Those two words have very different legal meanings, residence verse domicile,” he said.

If the board wanted to allow parents to use temporary residences so a child could attend a different school in the district, then the “policy should be left as is,” he said.

Board member Paul Mangione objected to the proposal as presented and requested to see the number of requests that come through in a given year.

“I think we’re moving a little too fast on this,” he said. “There’s still some gray areas out there as far as where the attendance boundaries are and we’re going to make changes to the policy why don’t we just do everything that needs to be included in there all at one time instead of going because of the gray areas in the attendance boundaries.”

“This isn’t really good for education. If a student wants to attend a different school because of increased education opportunities at that school versus their current school, the kid’s just trying to better himself and get a better education,” he continued, “and I think the same could go through with sports and things like that, too, that there might be a reason why they want to attend another school that they’re not currently at. And by us passing this we’re taking all those opportunities off the board. So, I’d like to hear some additional input; I’d like to see this tabled until we can get some additional language to clear up the attendance boundaries and also to take a look and see where these numbers are, too.”

If the resolution was approved, assignments for the 2014-15 school year would be revisited, Byham said. A child would attend the area where the guardians’ permanent residence is and would counter instances of parents or legal guardians having permanent residence in one attendance area but send a child to live with a relative in another attendance area for school.

The current policy technically allows for parents to send a child to another attendance area to play for a different sports team or to have a better chance of becoming valedictorian, he said.

“Those are the kinds of things that under the current policy would technically be permitted to exist and those are some of the things the policy revisions would eliminate,” Blyham said, “and I think that’s the administration’s desire…As I advise the board, because of this inconsistent terminology in the policy, because of what the desire is relative to where the students attend, these policy revisions are being brought forth to flesh that out.”

“I think the intent is to try and remedy what is perceived as an on-going problem going forward, but not to reassign and relocate students assigned to previous schools in previous years,” he said.

“It makes perfect sense to say, ‘Hey you live here this is where your kids going to school,'” board member John Anderson said.

Board member Marcy Madigan said she has a problem with changing the policy for the 2014-15 school year, not the policy itself.

“Would indeed all requests for the ’14-’15 academic year be re-evaluated or considered under this?” board member Jack Werner asked.

“If the board were to approve this policy tonight as it reads under first and second reading, yes, any assignment decisions for the ’14-’15 school year would be revisited under the new policy,” Byham said.

The board approved the resolution by a vote of six to two, with Morgan and Mangione voting no and board President Arthur Stewart abstaining.