Monday, July 23 , 2018, 3:10 am | Fair 68º


Parents Raise Concerns About Santa Barbara School District’s Transfer Policies

The Santa Barbara Unified School District affirmed its transfer policies Tuesday, but the Board of Education took parent concerns to heart and asked that requirements become more transparent.

The district gets hundreds of transfer requests every year. Pupil services director Marlin Sumpter said most of the requests that are filed on time — by mid-February each year — are approved, but many schools are already overflowing.

The reasons for transferring vary among parents, but the result is that many schools’ demographics don’t reflect the neighborhoods they serve.

Roosevelt and Washington elementary schools and Peabody Charter School hold lotteries every year, but any school potentially could hold one if it gets more requests than it has space, according to Sumpter.

School employees’ children get first priority for transfers, siblings of current students get second priority and district employees’ children get third priority, according to board policy.

Transfer students don’t have to reapply each year, but they can — on rare occasions — get bumped back to their home school to make room for students who live within the school’s boundaries.

Washington Elementary parents asked the Board of Education to make the requirements and priorities more clear, since they would hate for their students to be kicked out of the schools into which they transferred.

Parent Dennis Longaberger transferred his son from McKinley Elementary to Washington Elementary this year in the transitional kindergarten program because of the scheduling, he said. He asked the district to consider the students already enrolled when they make their transfer decisions.

Greg and Deborah Vance have a Washington third-grader and a kindergarten student who attends Monroe.

“We were just kind of under the assumption as he was a sibling … we didn’t pay too much attention to those rules and regulations and everything,” Greg Vance said.

Now, the Vances have to drop off and pick up their children at two schools, and instead wish that siblings had a higher priority.

“I was really, really looking forward to having them both at the same school,” Greg Vance said.

Deborah Vance asked for a more “family-friendly and transparent” transfer policy.

“I know you have to balance budget, class sizes and racial balance at each school to reflect the community; however, I also believe students already granted transfers should be treated as part of the community,” she said, adding that transfer students have a “second-class status” since they can be displaced by an in-boundary student at any time.

“As a parent, I experienced what you’re describing — and it does work out fine to have more than one school in your children’s lives,” board member Gayle Eidelson said.

Board member Kate Parker said the district used to give first priority to program improvement students, but by making sibling students a higher priority, the district aims to help keep families together.

The current year was an unusual one at Washington Elementary, with a huge number of siblings trying to get in, and some didn’t get in, she said.

It’s state law that students within the boundary area are placed first, Parker said.

“It happens every year where students don’t get the spot that they want, they don’t get to follow their older brother or sister — it’s really hard, but sometimes it’s just the way it plays out,” Parker said. “I’m really disappointed the way it played out at Washington this year. I know lots of families are disappointed.”

The district may need to amend its transfer policies once it makes final decisions on the GATE program, which is currently housed at Washington. Assistant superintendent of elementary education Emilio Handall said the plan — which will be presented at later board meetings — is for each site to create its own GATE program in the future.

The Santa Barbara district will accept transfer requests until Feb. 19 and no later. Applications can be found online and must be returned in person to the district’s Office of Pupil Services at 720 Santa Barbara St. in Santa Barbara.

The district hasn’t been accepting transfer students from other school districts since 2009, due to the negative fiscal impacts from extra students.

As a note to parents, board member Ed Heron said that Peabody Charter School’s transfer deadlines are much sooner than the districts, with applications due Jan. 31 and a lottery held Feb. 6.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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