A liberalized transfer policy for high school students that would let them sidestep the new high school boundaries was rejected by the Salt Lake Board of Education Tuesday night.
In a 4-3 vote that was a replay of the boundary decision, the board turned down a proposal that would have returned the district to open enrollment, a policy that was abandoned four years ago to stop student flight out of South High School.The transfer proposal said: "All high school students who wish to transfer from their assigned schools must complete a `request to transfer' form by April 29, 1988. The number of transfers granted will be based on the enrollment capacity of the high schools. Upper-level students will be given the first priority to transfer."
The district now has closed enrollment. Certification of mental, emotional or physical problems are required for a transfer approval, and very few transfers are allowed.
Board members Stephen G. Boyden, Lorna Matheson and Carolyn Kump backed the proposal as an opportunity to heal the district, which is still divided from the fight over realigning high school boundaries, by giving back freedom of choice to parents upset about their children's assigned schools.
The boundary decision left the district "with perceived winners and perceived losers, and that's a very difficult situation for the community to be in," Boyden said.
The proposal is a compromise that would let those who feel aggrieved see that the system can serve them, Boyden said. Urging its approval, he added, "I think you will feel the animosity dying down (if the proposal is adopted). Then what will there be to fight about?"
Matheson said the parents of the children affected by the decision belong to a generation that isn't afraid to continually question authority. "They are not going to go away, and neither is the divisive factor that exists in this city."
The majority Ron Walker, Keith Stepan, Susan Keene and Colleen Minson said the proposal isn't viable now as the schools are working to implement the boundary changes. They indicated a willingness to discuss the issue again in the future.
Saying he has an open mind about open enrollment, Walker said its reintroduction this year would be disastrous for administration and education. He also claimed that, at this time, the move to open enrollment would reinstate what he called a "two-tier educational system" in the city, where students leave west-side schools for the east side, and would push aside the school equity that the board struggled so painfully to achieve with the redrawing of the boundaries.
The principals of the city's high schools also expressed reservations about embracing open enrollment at this late date. Principal Ivan Cendese of Highland said the three high schools are completing student registration for next fall and will be assigning teachers within the next two weeks. Opening up transfers would push that process into the summer, he said.
South's LaVar Sorensen said open enrollment might work in the future, but he pleaded with the board to reject it now. After a year of working through problems and fears, South students "are now ready and willing to make that change (boundary decision)," he said.
He said South teachers are also anxious, and need to know their reassignments shortly so they can prepare for next fall.
School patrons filling the board chambers obviously backed open enrollment, applauding comments favoring it. Several patrons asked for time on the agenda to support liberalized transfers. When open-enrollment opponent Clayton Smith told the board the school district is "ready to go forward, not backward" with open enrollment, he was jeered.
When the board voted down the proposal, one disgruntled patron shouted, "We'll see you in court."
A surprise came during patron comments when Donnie James announced that she no longer opposes the boundary changes. She is one of five plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit that asks for an injunction preventing the school board from redistributing students with new boundaries. Following her comments, James told the Deseret News she is going to withdraw from the suit.
After the meeting, Boyden said open enrollment is not dead and he will reintroduce it.