School choice raised its head again Tuesday, but the Board of Education turned down most requests.
School choice - the right for parents and students to choose the school they want - ended for the 1998-99 school year Jan. 30. But the Provo board opened it up again briefly last month for Westridge Elementary students after changing the west side school to a single-track, year-round schedule with an extended year round school option.At the same time the board closed the new Amelia Earhart school as a choice option.
Despite that, several parents asked that their children be allowed to attend the school when it opens this fall, rather than be bused across town to Westridge. The boundaries split neighborhoods and LDS wards, some parents said. Also, the new school is closer to home.
But the board said it closed Amelia Earhart elementary to choice for a year to see how the new school works out. New homes are being built within those boundaries, and the board doesn't want to fill the school with children outside the boundaries until it sees how the school will fit with the new neighborhoods going up around it.
"That school may be fuller than anticipated," said board member Mary Hutchins. "We don't want to fill it with people outside the boundaries."
In addition to closing certain schools to choice, the district may also close certain grades and can move students out who were grant-ed choice if a school becomes overcrowded, said Superintendent Michael Jacobsen.
The district had three requests for students to attend the newer Centennial Middle School on Provo's east bench or Edgemont area. It approved one deemed a hardship case, turned down another despite a child-care and trans-por-ta-tion problem and postponed a decision on the third because the applicant wasn't able to attend the meeting.
Provo buses middle school students who live within Edgemont's Canyon Crest Elementary School boundaries to Farrer Middle School in downtown Provo and in turn buses some downtown Provo students to Edgemont's Centennial Middle School to achieve socio-economic integration. Busing students to Farrer allows that school to offer a full education program.
Farrer is in an older, transitional area with a declining population of middle school students.
Only 37 students from the Canyon Crest district this year were allowed to attend their neighborhood Centennial Middle School. Those students were to be hardship cases.
The parents of one student who live in the exclusive Riverbottoms area asked that their daughter be allowed to attend Centennial after she was harassed by Farrer students, who also came to their home and caused problems, they said. The student failed to be selected during January's choice request period. The parents said they took the child out of Farrer and placed her in private school for the remainder of this term.
The board granted their request so she could attend Centennial next school year.
The issue central to Edgemont parents is allowing their middle school children to attend a neighborhood school with their friends. Busing children from the Canyon Crest area to Farrer "is ripping apart our neighborhoods," wrote one parent in a letter requesting her child be allowed to attend Centennial. The family moved in after the choice window was closed.
Busing to achieve socio-economic integration and to keep the school population of Farrer to an operational level had many Edgemont parents scrambling for the 37 slots allowed at Centennial during January, the only month to apply for choice. That disturbs board members because school choice was not intended to beat the system.