New enrollment policy opens schools for non-residents |

New enrollment policy opens schools for non-residents

Students from throughout the state of Utah will be able to attend school in any district of their choosing, even after the school year has begun.

The new bill that allows for this policy, HB 349, was signed into law in late March. Previously, students could enroll in districts where they did not reside, but these most recent provisions allow students to transfer between districts with markedly more ease. The bill opens both an early and late enrollment periods for students. Additionally, the bill sets a precedent for school districts to cap enrollment according to classroom populations. School districts will also be asked to post their population statistics on their web sites.

Previously, Utah state law allowed students to transfer between districts, but the process was far more restrictive. Students had to register far in advance and their requests fell to the mercy of each school district’s capacity, or stated capacity. For most schools, capacity means that classes should have a district-wide average number of students in each "instructional station" or classrooms.

The late enrollment period allows for students to transfer school districts even if the year has already begun. "Before, if you realized it wasn’t working for your kid, you missed the opportunity," said Leah Barker of Parents for Choice in Education. Now, she continued, parents are able to move their kids if they discover that their local schools do not meet their needs or those of their children.

Once enrolled in a non-resident district, students are allowed to continue in that district until they reach its highest level or the district has reason to remove them. For the Park City School District, at least, this addition will cause some change in procedure. Until now, non-resident students have had to reapply during the enrollment period after each school year. Now, school administrators will have to plan for these students to continue in the district without further notice.

Generally, said Ray Timothy, Park City School District Superintendent, the district has "been pretty open minded anyways" concerning non-resident students. The only school to this point that remained closed for non-residents was the high school, due to the construction. All the other schools remained open and fit within legislated capacity.

"We receive a lot of outside requests," for non-resident enrollment said Timothy, but at the moment the district is not overly worried. The "greater concern is that we get more and more people continuing to transfer in," who are able to stay for the length of their primary educations.

In the short term, this change forced the district to look at the capacities of the buildings. They will also have to reassess the district population and infrastructure as the school year gets closer during the late enrollment period. Timothy said that he would not be surprised if an additional elementary school becomes necessary down the line to handle more students due to both growth in area population and open enrollment.

Although the effects of HB 349 remain to be determined in their entirety, the legislation should make it easier for out-of-area students to transfer between districts.

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