Parent feedback to influence determinations

After a month of delays, the Lake Oswego School Board is set to decide on the district’s 2013-14 enrollment policy Monday night — but parents have been asked to weigh in first.

One of the primary concerns of the school board and district administration this year has been finding ways to get student populations in schools on the north and south sides of Oswego Lake in balance despite increasingly limited funding.

At a districtwide Parent Advisory Committee meeting Feb. 11, patrons were asked to provide feedback on pending decisions regarding in-district transfer guidelines, open enrollment participation and the reciprocal transfer agreement between the Lake Oswego and Riverdale school districts. This feedback was assembled in a packet for school board members to review prior to the upcoming meeting.

In-district transfers

Next year, LOSD will continue to allow elementary students from the south side of Oswego Lake to transfer to north-side schools, where more space is available. The board is considering returning these students to south-side secondary schools after fifth grade.

To Lakeridge Junior High parent Kathy Delfath, this was a welcome suggestion.

“If it is that important for a student to attend the other secondary school (in most cases LOHS) then they should consider moving,” she wrote. “We need to restore balance between north and south side secondary schools.”

Not all provided such a ringing endorsement.

“I don’t think that it would serve any purpose at this point,” wrote Forest Hills Elementary parent Shellie Sheppard. “Having counted them among transfer students until that point there doesn’t seem to be any benefit of transferring them back to their home secondary schools unless it is upon their own request. Considering it from a purely social aspect, students could potentially suffer from being removed from their current friends and support systems during a period of already difficult transition.”

In spring 2012, the school board decided to allow all current transfer students in sixth through eighth grade to complete junior high school at their current school. Now, the board is considering providing these students the option of attending either high school.

The board is considering the option, at the secondary level, of transfers from smaller schools to larger schools being approved “only if both principals agree that the transfer is necessary in order to preserve the ability to be successful in educating the student.”

Lake Oswego High parent Sherry Reuter threw her weight behind this plan.

“Published boundaries and policy should eliminate movement except for exceptional cases approved by both principals,” she wrote. “When I grew up it was very clear where I was going to school based on where I lived. There was no question and no discussion. It seemed to work.”

Under House Bill 3681, Oregon’s open enrollment law that went into effect last year, a school district may choose to accept a transfer student without first receiving approval from the student’s home district after annually determining the number of open enrollment slots that will be available for the following school year. Students accepted via open enrollment are then considered resident students, and the district receives the state funding allocated to each student.

For 2013-14, as part of an ongoing effort to achieve enrollment balance, the school board is considering opening enrollment to students from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District who will be in grades six through 10 next year, allowing them to enroll in Lakeridge Junior High or Lakeridge High School but not at Lake Oswego Junior High or Lake Oswego High School. The district would also continue to offer half-price tuition to residents of the city of Lake Oswego who live outside the LOSD.

“Opening enrollment only at LJHS and LHS from West Linn-Wilsonville would provide a means to help balance enrollment numbers at our high schools. Geographically, this would also be a logical decision,” wrote Lakeridge Junior High parent Audrey Monroe.

“I would prefer open enrollment options at all secondary schools in the district,” wrote LOHS parent Julie Wunderlich. “Why would we turn away ... dollars at a time of financial hardship in the district?”

“I think that given the enrollment numbers at the north side schools, and the capacity issues that seem to be taking place at LOJHS, it makes sense to keep open enrollment limited to the south side schools for the next year,” wrote Forest Hills parent Becky Owens. “I’m not sure we’ll get many transfers from WL/WV, given their program’s strength, but I suppose any ... funds would help our bottom line at this point.”

Interdistrict transfers

The LOSD has a longstanding agreement with Riverdale School District allowing a capped number of one-for-one transfers between their high schools. In the past, due to proximity, more students from Lake Oswego than Lakeridge High School have transferred to Riverdale, and more Riverdale students have transferred to Lake Oswego than Lakeridge. Now, the board is considering allowing incoming Riverdale students to attend Lakeridge only.

“This seems a bit odd,” wrote Lakeridge High School parent Lois Moll. “I get it, but geographically most Riverdale students would be closer to LOHS.”

“At this time, Riverdale students might choose LOHS due to reputation and proximity,” wrote LOJH parent Stacy Yost. “If we limit this choice for Riverdale students, they probably will not come. They will stay at Riverdale, and we would lose the potential income.”

Finally, the board is considering continuing the current practice of accepting students where space is available, a notion most of the parents seemed to favor.

“This seems obvious to me,” Wunderlich wrote. “Tuition students bring in money which can then be directed anywhere the district deems most beneficial. The more restrictions you place on tuition students the more they may opt to take their tuition dollars elsewhere.”

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