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Clayton announces 21 'school-choice' sites

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County parents who want to take advantage of a school-choice option available to them under a state law that went into effect this week have less than two weeks to submit an application to the school system.

Late Tuesday, the district posted the names of 21 school-choice transfer sites, as well as a transfer application. The transfers are made available under House Bill 251, which was passed by the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year, and signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue on May 5.

The bill allows parents to transfer their children to another school within their school district, provided the school of choice has space for the student, and parents provide transportation for their children to, and from, the school.

Applications must be completed and submitted to the school system's Family Resource Center, which is located at 2260 Old Rex Morrow Road, Morrow, either in person, or by mail, with a postmark dated no later than July 15.

"These are good options," said Family Resource Center Coordinator Ken Sanders. "It helps them [parents] because there are some families that want to have a choice about where children go to school, and this is another option for them."

For high school students, the school system has designated Jonesboro and Mundy's Mill high schools as school-choice locations. Middle school sites are Adamson, Jonesboro, Kendrick, North Clayton, Pointe South, M.D. Roberts and Sequoyah middle schools. The elementary school sites are East Clayton, Fountain, Huie, Kilpatrick, McGarrah, Mt. Zion, Northcutt, Riverdale, Suder, Swint and Tara elementary schools.

Sanders said the district does not have a set number of how many spaces are going to be available at each school for people who wish to transfer under the provisions of House Bill 251. The number of students who can go to a specific school will depend on how much space is available at the institution when applications are reviewed later this month, he added.

If there are more applications for a school than there are spaces available, a computerized lottery will be used to pick which students can transfer, Sanders said.

State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), one of the sponsors of House Bill 251, said the intent of the bill is to give parents an option in where their children go to school for more reasons than academics.

Morgan said that while some parents may want to take advantage of the bill's school-choice option because they want more academic rigor for their children, other parents may want their children enrolled in a school that is closer to their workplace.

Students who transfer to another school under the provisions of House Bill 251 can remain at that school until they have completed all grade levels available at that school, Morgan said.

"Parents are the most qualified to decide what is in the best interest of their children," Morgan said. "It's not always about the parents liking a particular school. Sometimes, it's about finding the school that is the best fit for the family."

Morgan said any school that is less than four years old is exempt from being a school-choice site because the school may have space, but it may also be adding one grade at a time. Charter schools are also exempt, she said, because those schools use a different application process from traditional public schools, so that any student in the district can already apply for enrollment in a charter school.

Sanders said he does not anticipate a large number of people applying for school transfers under the new law because the district already has a similar policy in place for people who want their children transferred to a school that is closer to their workplaces. He said the policy also covers people who are employees of the school system and live outside of the county, but want their children enrolled in the district.

"We [have] a board policy that [deals] with this and we already had that round of applications last month," Sanders said.

If the parent of a high school athlete wants to use the bill to transfer their children to Jonesboro or Mundy's Mill, however, they need to be aware that the athletes will not be allowed to immediately play sports on a varsity-level team, per Georgia High School Association rules.

Shortly after the bill was signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue in May, a written statement was posted on the association's web site which said any high school student who transfers to another school under the law after beginning the ninth-grade will be considered a "migrant student" by the association.

"This means that the student may practice, and may compete on the sub-varsity level, but may not compete in the varsity level for one calendar year after transferring to the new school," the statement said.

For more information about school-choice transfers, call the Family Resource Center at (404) 362-3780.

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On the net:

Clayton County Public Schools: http://www.clayton.k12.ga.us/