One side worries that a new Salt Lake high school transfer policy would circumvent the controversial boundary decision. The other side cries for understanding for high school students in crisis over their assigned schools.
But both sides agreed on one thing during a public hearing before the Salt Lake Board of Education Tuesday night: They're tired of the endless debate that was born in the boundary decision and just won't die."The time for debate is passed. It is time to bury the hatchet and get on with the business of educating the students in this school district," said Larry Failner of the South High Community Council.
Board members also indicated a weariness over the ongoing discussion. President F. Keith Stepan asked the 55 school patrons who signed up to speak to forego their comments if their points had been made. Many complied.
Under consideration is a proposal by Superintendent John W. Bennion that
would allow transfers of up to 10 hardship cases from East and Highland high schools and 15 from West and East. The current policy, which would remain in place except for the limited hardship cases, allows only transfers for students who can document emotional, mental or physical problems.
To prevent undue stress on the neighborhoods, no more than 25 percent of the incoming freshman class from a neighborhood would be allowed to transfer.
It is not the first attempt to liberalize the transfer policy for high school students. In April the board rejected 4-3, along its well-known split, a liberalized transfer policy that would have returned the city high schools to open enrollment, a policy that was abandoned four years ago to stop the flight out of South High School.
Criticism continued unabated at board meetings, so in late May the superintendent suggested that open enrollment be phased in. A public hearing was called; speaker slots quickly filled up. But the public hearing was canceled - twice - because, as the board members said officially, they wanted to give all sides a chance to work toward compromise.
That compromise never came. In late June, Bennion suggested the limited transfer, signaling that the phased-in open enrollment proposal was dead, even though it has never been withdrawn.
At Tuesday's hearing, proponents said the proposed transfer policy would satisfy the needs of hardship cases but would not disrupt the boundary changes. Many said they wanted the percentage of neighborhood transfers reduced from 25 to 15 percent.
Those who favor an easing of the transfer policy don't like Bennion's proposal. They said they feel the proposed 10 allowable transfers is not enough.
"If ever an idea was arbitrary and capricious, it was this one," said school patron Joyce Campbell.
And speaker after speaker mentioned that school starts in 45 days, and they want the issue resolved now. The board said it would vote on the proposal at its Aug. 2 meeting.
Comments from board members leaned toward a softening of the transfer policy. Suggesting an alternative, board Vice President Stephen G. Boyden recommended that a committee of the city's three high school principals be formed to handle transfers. "Why not leave it with the professionals instead of board members?" he asked.
Like the superintendent's proposal, Boyden's suggestion will be handled at the next board meeting.