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New law allows at-will transfers

Starting with the 2012-13 school year, any student in Oregon will be free to transfer to the school of his or her choice regardless of where he or she lives.

The only requirement for the move is written consent from the student's new school.

In the Estacada School District, transferring students has become a bit of a problem. And it may become an even bigger problem because of the passage of this statewide student-transfer law.

District Superintendent Howard Fetz says that between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, the district lost about 192 students in its enrollment count.

That's a big deal locally because the exodus of students has a very real influence on the level of state funding that flows into any school district. The state's funding is based on an individual head count of enrollment. As students transfer out-of-district, the state funding follows them to their new district.

State Rep. Patrick Sheehan, R-District 51, however, says that despite the potential loss in funding, this bill is necessary.

'There have been several stories about parents wanting to move their children into a new school to provide them with better opportunities or to avoid specific challenges,' Sheehan said. 'And parents can have a say in this critical issue by providing districts their feedback as they adapt their rules.'

For school administrators, such as Fetz, it's this idea of feedback that they have chosen to focus on. As a way to improve their system and encourage people to stay in-district, Estacada residents looking to transfer will be given what is essentially an exit survey of the school system.

'Information that we will seek on a monthly basis includes the student's initials, grade level, their teachers' names, reason for transferring, two of the most positive things about their experience in the Estacada schools and two of the most negative things,' Fetz said.

This information will be kept confidential.

'While we always track transfers in and out of our schools through the exchange of (student files),' Fetz said, 'each building is now being asked to more thoroughly track the students who leave the district, even though many students just 'disappear' by being absent for 10 or more consecutive days and are then, according to state law, removed from our roster.'

According to the law, all schools will either declare themselves as 'accepting transfers' or 'not accepting transfers,' and any school that declares itself as the former is required to accept any students willing to transfer. The resident district would have no say in the process.