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Board might seek waiver to high school transfer penalties

This fall, District 833 students must attend schools they are assigned to -- no transfers are being allowed -- but the School Board still must decide whether transfers will be permitted the following year.

If allowed to transfer, varsity athletes could have eligibility problems under a Minnesota State High School league regulation.

On the other hand, with different accelerated programs being offered at each high school, it's conceivable students might want to transfer for academic reasons.

Park High School is in the second year of a three-year process to open an International Baccalaureate program in 2010. Woodbury High School has an Advanced Placement academic program and East Ridge High School is opening with Project Lead the Way, an academic program with an engineering focus.

According to the league, students in varsity sports who transfer to another high school must wait a year to be eligible to participate in sports again. The league enacted the rule to prevent parents from transferring their students only to participate in another sports program, according to Phil Kuemmel, athletic activities director.

If the school board opens enrollment, the rule might interfere with students from Woodbury High School transferring to Park to participate in International Baccalaureate or vice versa to participate in Advanced Placement.

The question came up in a school board workshop on May 7 when Park officials presented a summary of progress toward achieving International Baccalaureate approval.

Some Woodbury parents of students who've attended schools in other countries have inquired about transferring when the program opens, said Park High School Principal Efe Agbamu.

Superintendent Tom Nelson acknowledged there might be problem with the rule. The district must demonstrate to the league that students are transferring for academic reasons and not just shopping for athletic programs, he said, so a waiver process can be created.

Agbamu doubts students will be "running back and forth" just to change schools. Though the program is only for 11th and 12th-graders, they must prepare for International Baccalaureate in ninth and 10th-grades by taking "honors" classes.

Though some Park students will take some International Baccalaureate classes, that option won't be available to transfer students unless they intend to be "full IB program students," Agbamu said.

There will be some "natural screening," said Park Counselor Elizabeth Janey, because potential IB students must take advanced math and foreign language classes.

The school is making progress in the application process, according to Park International Baccalaureate Coordinator Aaron Pozzini.

So far, 24 staff members have completed International Baccalaureate training with two more taking classes this summer. Teachers are needed for three levels of math, he said.

New curriculums are being written according to International Baccalaureate standards, he said, and a parent information program was well attended.

Baccalaureate officials will visit Park next fall to evaluate progress, according to Pozzini. School board members will be part of the process because officials need reassurance the district is making a long-term commitment to the program.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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