D-11 gives displaced students top priority for choice of new school

February 13, 2013
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Colorado Springs School District 11 offered up plans Wednesday to create some order out of the enrollment musical chairs that students and parents are worried about in light of several school closures.

The D-11 board voted Wednesday to modify the district’s School Choice policy so that the displaced students move up the priority list for a chance to attend the school of their choice.

There was much discussion on whether students of district employees should get precedence over the displaced students. There are about 477 students in the district who are children of district employees. Of those, 122 live outside district boundaries and permit in.

“It’s a recruiting tool,” said board member Elaine Naleski.

But she and five other board members voted to give the displaced students precedence. Board member Al Loma was absent.

After this, district employees’ children will be placed higher on the priority scale, in second place, because no closures are anticipated next year.

The board decided to change the policy to give precedence to displaced students next year in this order:

1. Students in the attendance areas, plus those grandfathered by boundary changes, and those who had already permitted into a school other than their own.

2. In-district students who attended a closed school.

3. Out-of-district students who attended a closed school.

4. Students of district employees.

5. Siblings of the first category.

6. Other new in-district choice students.

7. Other new out-of-district choice students.

The bottom line, everyone agreed, was that there should be no problems in displaced students getting to go where they want.

“We just want a smooth process. We’ve looked at a lot of scenarios, and anyone who wants to go to a particular school can,” said board member Luann Long.

“We will have room for them,” Long said.

Colorado law says students can attend any school, as long as there is room. There are very few reasons that allow schools and districts to deny enrollment.

The board also continued discussions about proposed district boundary changes that will affect the high schools and some elementary schools that will get displaced students.

The board approved a comprehensive plan Feb. 6 that included closing Wasson High and Lincoln and Bates elementary schools at the end of this school year, moves that require changing school boundaries.

There were only a handful of comments from district residents Wednesday.

Dave Munger, head of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, appealed to the board to take neighborhood boundaries into consideration when making the changes.

“Healthy schools equal healthy neighborhoods, and healthy neighborhoods equal healthy schools,” Munger said.

Roughly 1,100 students will head to different schools in the fall.

Under the proposed plan, the 850 displaced Wasson High School students will be spread among Coronado, Doherty, Mitchell and Palmer high schools. About 200 Wasson seniors will be the school’s last graduating class.

Elementary students in kindergarten through fourth grade now at Bates and Lincoln are expected to attend Jackson, Edison, Audubon or Fremont elementary schools.

The proposed boundaries will be discussed at a public meeting Feb. 19 and the board is expected to vote on them Feb. 27.

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