Duluth School Board considering more-restrictive transfer policy
Transferring between schools within the Duluth school district could become more difficult for some students next year. The Duluth School Board will vote Tuesday on a new transfer policy that will consider class size, the teacher/student ratio an...
Transferring between schools within the Duluth school district could become more difficult for some students next year.
The Duluth School Board will vote Tuesday on a new transfer policy that will consider class size, the teacher/student ratio and classroom space.
The district’s transfer policy has been blamed for an overpopulated Congdon Park Elementary School and for some of the enrollment disparity between East and Denfeld high schools, for example. East has more than 1,600 students, while Denfeld has about 1,000. District officials in the past have called the policy arbitrary, where decisions are based on how well families make their specific cases. As the district works to balance enrollment throughout all its schools, transferring is one area officials say needs to change.
The new policy was formed in part by input from parents and from other districts, Superintendent Bill Gronseth said.
It addresses issues that were of concern for some and clarifies the process, he said during the district's education committee meeting on Wednesday evening.
The proposal states that the assistant superintendent, currently Ed Crawford, remains the decision-maker. What is new is that he will consider class sizes when making transfer decisions for all grades, but a specific class-size number will be considered for grades K-4. For example, if the fourth-grade sections in the school a student wants to transfer into have classes of 28 or more, the student would be put on a wait list or denied. If a class actually has only 28 students, the school would keep it to that number to make room for students whose families have moved into that school’s boundary area.
The new transfer appeal board now would include two community members instead of one, to have more balanced representation across the district. It would still include a School Board member and an administrator other than the assistant superintendent. The policy now says that the appeal board would talk with the principal of the school in question when making decisions, because they often have updated enrollment numbers, Gronseth said.
The panel would still consider exceptions.
This year showed double-digit transfers to schools across the city.
East, Ordean East Middle School and Myers-Wilkins, Congdon Park, Lowell, Laura MacArthur, Homecroft and Piedmont elementary schools all received more than 10 students from other district schools. Of those, Myers-Wilkins had the most with 27 and Homecroft the fewest with 12. At Congdon Park, there were 22 new transfers, with eight students denied. All of those elementary schools are expected to be at or over capacity by 2017, according to district enrollment projections.
The only elementary schools expected to remain under capacity - unless boundaries are changed - are Stowe and Lakewood, which are the district’s westernmost and northernmost schools.
This year, 158 transfers districtwide were approved and 26 were denied. Last year, 159 were approved and 5 were denied. In the 2012-13 school year, 157 were approved and 9 were denied.
The approved numbers include successful appeals. For the 2013-14 school year, for example, 13 of 18 were approved.
Between the two high schools, recent transfer numbers have been fairly low. The number of transfers to East from Denfeld this year is 14, with seven moving from East to Denfeld. But some parents allege that families lie about where a student is living to attend East, suggesting the number of students from the Denfeld boundary area attending East is larger than transfer numbers show. Addresses of relatives are used, parents have said.
Board member Bill Westholm is a past member of the appeal board and a former principal.
“There are some things here we could have used over the years,” he said, pointing specifically to class size restrictions. “That’s one of the things we wrestled with … over the years it’s gotten better and people in the buildings have communicated better, but I think this is really going to help.”
Amending the transfer policy is one part of the district’s plan to balance school populations. It’s also hoping to change boundaries for some schools, effective next fall. A demographic study is in the works, and community meetings will be held this winter so residents can help shape changes.