Board Lifts Enrollment Restriction for Year-Round Schools
Next year, all Pinehurst students can choose to opt into year-round school, subject to new guidelines from the Moore County school system.
During its regular meeting Monday, the Moore County Board of Education voted to lift the current enrollment restrictions on the programs at Pinehurst Elementary School and West Pine Elementary School.
Board member Dale Frye was not present at the meeting.
Brian Phillips, assistant superintendent for elementary education, presented the recommendation to the board, saying that enrollment in the program was lower than expected this year with the restrictions, despite a great deal of interest in the program voiced by Pinehurst families.
“The recommendation we would like to make to you tonight would significantly simplify the process and, we feel, provide greater support to the year-round program,” he told the board.
The year-round programs opened at the two schools this year after Academy Heights Elementary School was closed last year.
Pinehurst Elementary serves year-round students in grades kindergarten through second, and West Pine Elementary serves students in third through fifth grade.
Enrollment for the programs this year was regulated by the original attendance guidelines outlined for the program at Academy Heights, which used the old Pinehurst Elementary district to determine who could go there. This standard did not take into account the new West Pine Elementary attendance district, which was created along N.C. 5 when the school opened two years ago.
Former Superintendent Susan Purser then said that the restrictions were put in place to ensure that all Academy Heights students would have access to the option if they chose to continue year-round and to make sure that each school was not initially overwhelmed by transfers into the programs.
Under the restriction, students living in the Pinehurst Elementary district have first priority for the K-2 program, while K-2 students living in the West Pine district can sign up for the program if space is available.
First priority enrollment is given to West Pine attendance area students for the 3-5 program, though students coming from the Pinehurst Elementary K-2 year-round program can continue at West Pine.
Last semester, year-round proponents asked the board to consider lifting the restriction because it discourages families from considering the option. They have also attributed confusion about the enrollment process and inconsistencies in the current program operations, such as school starting and ending at the same time for both locations, to parent deterrence.
For the 2012-2013 year, all students in either attendance district will have the opportunity to enroll in the programs, but the system is putting five stipulations in place with the new policy.
Priority will be given to students who previously attended Academy Heights and remained in the year-round program, siblings of these former Academy Heights students, siblings of other students currently enrolled in the programs, and children of school district employees. Any remaining positions will be filled by a lottery.
Phillips said that the system will conduct the lottery during an evening meeting so families would be able to attend and the school system could be “as transparent as possible” in the process.
Class sizes will be held to 21 students per teacher. Phillips said that if a class does not have all 21 spots filled at the end of registration, but it is close to the cap, the system will work with schools for an additional period of time to fill remaining positions.
Phillips said the new guidelines would establish a framework in which parents will know how the system works and what deadlines are in place for signing up their children for the programs.
“It will help parents plan and be able to know what they have to do as far as filling out transfer forms before the cut-off date,” he said.
Board member Lorna Clack asked if students from other attendance districts could opt into the Pinehurst program to fill any remaining vacancies.
Phillips said that students in other districts can opt into the Southern Pines year-round program, which serves students all over the county, because it has the capacity to host additional students.
Board member Laura Lang asked why the guidelines would be in place just for the 2012-2013 school year.
Board chairwoman Kathy Farren told Lang that the system hopes to explore the option of establishing additional programs in other areas of the county.
“When we find out what the interest is at other locations, it could change,” Farren said. “We felt like we need to make this for the coming year to accommodate the people in the area, but not go out too far because there may be more changes that need to be made.”
Phillips also added that the transportation policy for year-round students will remain the same — students living in their school’s traditional attendance district will have access to bus transportation, and those living out of district must arrange their own transportation.
Information about enrolling in the program will be published on the school system’s website well before kindergarten registration begins so that families can consider their options, and online transfers will be available starting March 1.
Changes to the enrollment policy in Pinehurst is part of a broader look the school system is taking on year-round programs in the county.
Last October, Purser formed a year-round task force of parents of students in the programs in both Southern Pines and Pinehurst to promote the year-round option in Moore County and to gauge interest in the option in other areas of the county.
Last week, brochures about year-round were distributed to all elementary students, and schools are advertising five community meetings that will be held this month to allow families with questions about year-round to talk to parents who have students currently in the programs.
The first is scheduled for Jan. 12 at Carthage Elementary School. Others will be held at West End Elementary School Jan. 17, Robbins Elementary School Jan. 19, Vass-Lakeview Elementary School Jan. 24 and Aberdeen Elementary School Jan. 26. All meetings start at 6 p.m.
Phillips stressed that the locations for these meetings were chosen to accommodate various areas in the county and do not infer that the system intends to establish programs at those schools.
At the end of the month, Phillips said the school system will conduct a Connect-Ed survey asking parents whether or not they would like to see more year-round options available in the system.
Contact Hannah Sharpe at email@example.com.
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