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District 833 School Board allows sibling transfer exception for East Ridge

Students who are not in the East Ridge High School attendance boundary will be allowed to transfer to that school so long as they have an older sibling already enrolled there.

The District 833 School Board voted Dec. 15 to allow that exception to the district's policy prohibiting intra-district transfers to East Ridge, which is nearing capacity. Board members claimed parents have received differing information about the school's transfer policy since it opened in fall 2009, and said the school can accommodate the increase in students that could result from allowing the sibling exception.

A group of parents has lobbied for the exception, but had only asked that siblings of current East Ridge students be allowed to transfer there instead of following their assignment to Woodbury High School or Park High School.

Parent Bill Johnson told board members last week that he and others are "really asking for just a simple exception."

Still, district administrators recommended no exceptions be granted.

The school currently enrolls 1,717 students and its capacity is 1,875 students. Allowing a sibling exception for current East Ridge students could add 17 students next year, 28 the following year and another 30 the year after. It would be over capacity after the 2012-13 school year.

Board members modified the transfer policy, however, allowing a sibling exception and making it even more accommodating to families than was requested.

The new policy means not only is there potential for a second child to transfer into East Ridge if an older sibling is already there, but families could take advantage of the policy twice if they had a third, younger child who also wanted to attend the school. All that is required is that the siblings be in the building together for at least one year.

Apparently conflicting positions and messages to parents over the past three years frustrated board members and was among reasons they said they will allow the exceptions. Board member Marsha Adou said she has heard of mistakes "made by administration" that did not follow the transfer policy.

"I really don't like when people that should know better tell parents things that aren't correct," she said, declining to identity administrators she referred to.

The district at times has operated both Woodbury and Park at well over the intended capacity, and East Ridge can operate over capacity if needed, board member Jim Gelbmann said.

Board member Ron Kath said he supported the administration's policy and worried about the process if exceptions are granted.

"My fear is we're opening that domino effect and it'll just continue to go," he said.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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