Salt Lake high school students may soon be required to attend high school for one semester before they can request a special transfer to another school.
That's the main solution the Salt Lake Board of Education proposes for tightening its high school transfer policy."They (students) do adjust. They do adapt. I think we have three fine high schools. We think the students should at least give it a try, even if they are reluctant at first," said Superintendent John W. Bennion.
The board will vote on the proposed change at its May 16 meeting, but comments at Tuesday night's board meeting indicated it will be approved easily. Five of the seven board members said they will vote for the proposed changes.
One member, Alan Mecham, did not comment, while member Lorna Matheson said she believes the proposed policy "goes beyond the bounds of what people will accept."
The board's move to tighten its policy responds to complaints from West High parents that a lax transfer policy had, in effect, created de facto open enrollment. Two weeks ago, angry parents criticized the transfers from West to East of 12 incoming ninth-graders for the 1989-90 school year. There is a total 35 transfers of incoming ninth-graders districtwide.
The 12 transfers are boys from two neighborhoods, the Upper Avenues and Federal Heights. The West parents said they saw the transfers as violating the boundary decision, bleeding high achievers from West, disrupting their neighborhoods and undermining equity.
Last fall, the board adopted a high school transfer policy that recognizes "unique hardship cases" for physical and psychological reasons. Unless granted a transfer, high school students must attend school in their assigned area.
The proposal, drafted by district staff members after consulting with administrators, principals and parents, aims to reduce the ambiguity in the policy and the difficulty in administering it, Bennion said.
"I'm the last one to claim it's a perfect product. What we have here (the situation) is very, very difficult," Bennion said.
The proposed policy stresses that high school students must attend their resident schools unless granted a transfer for "extraordinary needs and special circumstances." It also says the transfer policy was never intended to "open the district to the instability of large or even moderate numbers of transferring students. The board does not want this policy to be interpreted as a policy of open transfer."
Bennion said, under the proposal, that all incoming ninth-graders and new 10th-grade students would be required to attend the resident school for one semester. Any waivers would have to be approved by a special committee of educators at both schools.
The policy also defines criteria for transfer after one semester, saying that the extraordinary circumstances requiring transfer would require objective evidence of a problem.
The proposal would clearly restrict the criteria to problems experienced by the student.