At a called meeting Thursday evening, the Washington County Board of Education voted unanimously to close enrollment to schools at capacity to students who live outside the school’s zone.
Todd Ganger, the school board member who made the motion, said that keeping schools at 90 percent capacity was a goal of previous boards and directors had to make sure class sizes weren’t getting too big or schools getting too full.
“We like to keep the student-to-teacher ratio as low as we can,” Ganger said.
The topic was brought to the school’s attention by James Murphy, the school system’s director of attendance. He said he and his staff were receiving calls about kindergarten registration at the new Boones Creek K-8 school.
The new school, which is still under construction, will not be open until the fall semester and will not even be in the school system’s computer system until mid-June.
With the board’s new motion, students are only allowed to attend the school in the zone they live in, with a few exceptions. Students who want to attend a school outside their bus zone that is over 90 percent capacity will go through the current process of filling out and signing an enrollment contract. The attendance office will then check with the schools to see if there is room for that student.
The enrollment contract states that to go to the school outside their zone, the students’ enrollment depends on providing their own transportation to the school, satisfactory attendance, effort and conduct.
Students who get re-zoned will be “grandfathered in” to their school they currently attend. This means the students will automatically have a spot in the school, but will have to sign an enrollment contract.
Board member Annette Buchanan stressed the importance of getting ahead of the situation and talking to the parents about zoning and making sure that students and parents are aware that the students are allowed to stay in their school, but that there is a contract to be signed.
“It’s just communications. Communication up front,” said Buchanan.
The board made plans to get this decision carried out. Each school’s exact capacity is currently unknown. Bill Flanary, director of schools, was tasked with meeting with school system staff to find out capacity for each school and decide which ones will need to close enrollment. His findings will be presented at a February meeting.
Currently, the board plans to send out letters to families whose zoning will be affected by the new Boones Creek school to gather an idea of who what parents and students plan to do. Flanary said they just want to find out what the families’ plans are as far as staying in their current schools or moving to another.
The Washington County Board of Education District Evaluation Committee will meet Jan. 30 at 4:30 p.m. in the board room of the Central Office at 405 W. College St., Jonesborough.