Walmer asks Houston school board to review enrollment policy

PERRY — Houston County Board of Education Chairman Tom Walmer urged the school board to consider making changes to two of its enrollment policies during Tuesday’s monthly board meeting.

Walmer asked the board to consider in January changing the policy that allows children of school employees to attend the schools of their choice, looking at excluding schools that have been open for four years or fewer unless the employee works there. That would include Veterans High School, which will open next year.

Walmer said the board would not consider removing that benefit to employees entirely, because providing such benefits is not unique to Houston County schools and helps attract stronger job applicants.

“Employees who choose to send children out of zone must choose by March 31 the previous school year,” Robins Hines, assistant superintendent for school operations, said in an e-mail. “Those who are out of county must pay tuition in full, or it can be taken monthly from their pay.”

Walmer also suggested allowing rising ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grade siblings of rising high school seniors to continue attending the same schools as their older siblings after the rezoning takes effect. Rising seniors will be grandfathered in to current school zones.

The suggestion was made in response to concerns from parents worried about splitting up high school-aged siblings next year under the new zoning.

At the Oct. 27 rezoning meeting, Walmer said in response to a question that only rising seniors who are rezoned would be able to stay at their current schools.

Allowances would not be made for younger siblings, which caused school overcrowding when the board made exceptions for them during its last rezoning effort in 2004. He said he gave that answer based on the board’s current policy.

However, for families zoned for Veterans High School, which won’t have a senior class its first year, those high school seniors would have to continue attending their current school.

Unlike other rising seniors, they would not have the option of moving to the new zone to stay with their younger siblings.

Because of that, the option to attend the same school would be extended to applicable families all over the county.

The exception would only be in effect for the 2010-11 school year while the senior sibling attended Houston County schools, Walmer said. Rising juniors also would be able to use senior privilege the year after to continue attending that school.

“I believe it would be the right thing to do,” Walmer said.

However, students who exercise this option would be ineligible to participate in varsity competitions at their new school for one year.

They would be classified as migrant students by the Georgia High School Association because they would be changing schools after the zoning takes effect without changing their residence, Walmer said.

Also, in response to public concern about the Oct. 27 zoning meeting being moderated by someone with ties to the school board, Walmer also announced the Nov. 19 zoning meeting would be moderated by community member Mary Therese Tebbe.

School board attorney Jeffrey Grube moderated the previous meeting.

Superintendent David Carpenter announced final zoning plans would be available for viewing at the Dec. 8 meeting, and the board will vote on the plans in January.