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District gets waiver from law on choice
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Forsyth County News
Forsyth County is one of two school districts that won’t have to follow a new state law that gives parents more say in what school their children attend.

The state Board of Education approved appeals from Forsyth and neighboring Gwinnett County on Wednesday. The new state law joins 14 other provisions the system no longer has to follow, thanks to its recent flexibility contract with the state.

The contract, known as Investing in Education Excellence, or IE2, offers freedom in exchange for tougher accountability measures. It can be changed at any time, provided the state school board agrees.

Ann Crow, who chairs the local school board, called the decision a victory for students and parents.

“Our system that we already have in place is more beneficial than what that bill would have allowed for,” Crow said. “Our feeling was by getting a waiver we would better be able to serve our population and get their input, without having all of the consequences from the state.”

The new law allows any child to attend any school in their school district, provided the school is at least four years old and there is space available to accommodate students beyond those districted there.

While local board members didn’t oppose the concept, they worried about possible overcrowding as a result. They appealed to the state legislature and governor, pointing out that the new state law likely would force the district to house more students in trailers.

And after further review, officials determined the district already offers more parent options than would be allowed under the law.

Nearly 1,600 local students have received permission to attend schools outside their district lines for the 2009-10 school year. But only about 700 of those students would have been eligible were the new state law followed.

County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans said the state board’s ruling will allow the county to “provide more opportunities for parent choice at the local level.”

“[We] will continue to use the system’s current out-of-district policy and procedures for guidance, which grant students and parents much more flexibility and school choice options other than what [the new law] mandates.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at jennifersami@forsythnews.com.