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District wants out of school choice law
Current setup seen as more accommodating
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Forsyth County News
The Forsyth County Board of Education wants to opt out of a new state law that allows parents to choose what school their children attend.

The school system is seeking to add the new school choice provision to 14 other mandates it 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.

The local board initially worried that the new law could lead to overcrowding at the most popular schools. But after further review, officials realized the district already offers more parent options than would be allowed under the law.

At a meeting Thursday night, board members stressed that they do not want to completely ignore the legislation.

Board member Tom Cleveland said the system would still try to "seek the intent of the bill, and maybe even add a little more flexibility than we’ve had in the past.”

“But I think first what we’re saying is we have to ask for relief from the mandates ... so that we can do what we need to do and what’s right for our community,” he said.

Board member Mike Dudgeon agreed, noting a new policy should be crafted that would preserve "the spirit of that as much as we can into what we end up with.”

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for us to waive [it] and then completely ignore it,” he said.

Associate Superintendent Joey Pirkle reviewed the district's position on the issue.

Current local policy allows students to transfer to participate in a program not offered at their school or to attend the school where a parent works.

In some cases, it also allows them to stay when redistricting occurs.

Under this setup, nearly 1,600 local students have received permission to attend schools outside their district lines for the 2009-10 school year.

If the new state law is followed, however, only about 700 of those students would be eligible.

While those students wouldn’t need a reason to transfer, the new state law does come with some restrictions.

The guidelines prevent students from transferring to a school less than four years old or switching to a crowded school. And students can be considered for a transfer only if there is space left after students in that district have registered.

By the district's attendance projections, just 11 schools would be eligible to accept transfer students.

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