Options limited for Bibb students under new school transfer law

Bibb County parents who hope to use a new state law to transfer their children out of their assigned school zone to a more preferred school this fall may find a short list of options.

“I think the options will be limited,” board member Albert Abrams said. “We won’t know until after school starts.”

Bibb County schools Superintendent Sharon Patterson updated school board members recently on House Bill 251 and the guidance she’s gotten from the state so far.

It was just last month that the governor signed the measure into law, which lawmakers said was to give parents more school choice.

It says that starting this school year, students can attend another school in their system as long as it has room and isn’t new.

It also gave school systems a July 1 deadline to notify parents of schools eligible to take student transfers.

“We have spent hours and hours on this already,” Patterson said. “We are moving toward the law requirement.”

The system is scheduled to publish a list of eligible schools on its Web site and on cable Channel 17 on July 1. Parents would have 14 days to apply for a transfer, although some children may not learn whether they can transfer until after the school year begins, school officials said. These are some highlights of the law so far:

Ÿ It won’t apply to “newly opened schools” for a period of four years from the school’s opening date. Bibb schools that opened during the 2006-07 school year and after won’t be eligible to take transfers. This would include Howard, Central and Southwest high schools, for example, officials said.

Ÿ It won’t apply to schools already at capacity. The school system is now determining how it will define capacity. For example, schools such as Westside High, Rutland Middle and Rutland High, which use mobile trailers for extra classrooms, have been considered over capacity by the system.

Ÿ No Child Left Behind school choice transfers who ask to transfer from an underperforming school to a performing school will get priority into any eligible school before those students applying under the new law.

Ÿ Twins, children of school system employees, remaining majority-to-minority transfers and students considered eligible for hardship and proximity transfers in the system would also get a priority to transfer under the new law.

Ÿ If a school is eligible and more students apply to transfer than there is room, a random lottery would be held for spots.

Ÿ The school system’s enrollment office at the Hutchings Career Center annex will likely be the contact site for transfer requests.

Ÿ Parents would have to provide transportation if their child is allowed to transfer under the law.

Ÿ If a student is allowed to transfer, he or she will be allowed to stay at that school until they complete the last grade level there.

The late timing of the law and its vagueness in parts has left many systems in a quandary on how to apply the provisions, Patterson said.

“You want to be fair, but by the same token it’s a lot of details,” she said.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.