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Korach: Don't do away with open enrollment

The Lake Oswego School Board was set to make decisions on in-district and interdistrict transfers and open enrollment guidelines for the 2013-14 school year at a special board meeting Wednesday evening.

In recent years, the school board and district administration have striven to get enrollment in Lake Oswego schools on the north and south sides of Oswego Lake into greater balance, in the face of an impending budgetary downturn.

At a school board meeting Monday, LOSD Superintendent Bill Korach delineated his recommendations to the school board.

At the elementary level, Korach recommended continuing to approve in-district elementary transfers on a space-available basis, with the stipulation that transfer students whose resident junior high school is smaller should return to that school after fifth grade and the provision that transfer students whose resident junior high school is larger should have a choice of which school to attend.

“Until we build capacity on the south side of the lake, you have to balance elementary students who will be on the north side of the lake, but their home residence is on the south side,” Korach said. “I think you need to acknowledge that we need to continue that practice, and then those transfer students whose resident junior high is smaller should return after fifth grade.”

Korach recommended allowing current middle-level transfer students to choose the high school they wish to attend, and current high school transfer students to complete high school at the school they attend, approving new transfer requests from the smaller school to the larger school only if both principals agree that the transfer is necessary to preserve the ability to be successful in educating the student.

Finally, he advocated for allowing exceptions to transfer guidelines for younger siblings of students with existing transfers if siblings would be attending the same school in the coming year.

“It wouldn’t necessarily be (if) your older brother was in the large school eight years ago and you want to go to that school,” Korach said. “The idea of the sibling policy is to try to keep families together.”

Under House Bill 3681, Oregon’s open enrollment law that went into effect last year, a district may choose to accept transfer students 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 the 2013-14 school year, Korach recommended opening enrollment to 50 incoming ninth-grade students at Lakeridge High School and 75 incoming students in grades six through eight at Lakeridge Junior High School from the geographic areas of the West Linn-Wilsonville, Tigard-Tualatin and Oregon City school districts, and to the area of Portland Public Schools north of Lake Oswego and south of Interstate 5. He also proposed opening enrollment to 25 incoming 10th-grade students from the WL-WV School District and the area within the city of Lake Oswego property tax boundaries that is not part of LOSD.

The school board seemed to favor this plan. Board member Linda Brown appreciated the fact that the proposed I-5 boundary for Portland Public Schools would mimic that of the Oregon House district.

Korach also recommended offering half-price tuition to K-12 students within the city of Lake Oswego property tax boundaries who are not LOSD residents, giving these students the option of applying to attend schools where space is available, and students in grades six through 10 the option for open enrollment at LJHS and LHS.

The Lake Oswego and Riverdale school districts have long had a reciprocal one-for-one transfer agreement, in which as many students permitted to transfer from the LOSD to the Riverdale district would be allowed to transfer from Riverdale to Lake Oswego.

Korach recommended that the school board make no change to the reciprocal transfer agreement for the 2013-14 school year, but explore reconsidering the agreement and instead including the Riverdale School District in open enrollment considerations in 2014-15.

“There are students in our district who I believe are best suited in that Riverdale environment, and so it does provide that option for our own kids, so ... protecting that for our students ... is a benefit to us,” Korach said. “But it is also a relationship that benefits, I believe, our nearest neighbor to the north.”

That said, he later added, “I think that looking at that transfer agreement with the Riverdale School District will be important for you going into next year.”

Finally, Korach urged transitioning the location of the district’s nascent Spanish immersion program to a south side feeder school in an effort to balance enrollment and to solidify the school board’s commitment to the development of a specialized immersion program at LJHS, and eventually at LHS.

“The immersion program is a strong beginning program that is going to make a difference in our district,” he said.

These enrollment policy decisions were originally slated to have been made in late January, and then again at a meeting Monday. But the school board wanted first to consider Korach’s recommendations and review parent feedback and community testimony.

The special board meeting was scheduled to occur as this issue went to press. A story on it will be published online in the coming days and in the March 7 print issue of the Review.

According to a Feb. 22 message of the Lake Oswego School District e-news, Superintendent Bill Korach is recommending, for the 2013-14 school year,

continuation of some past practices:

• Offering open enrollment slots to current students in grades K-11 who are enrolled in any LOSD school via interdistrict transfer or tuition as of March 1.

• Currently enrolled LOSD residents who are seeking an interdistrict transfer to remain in LOSD schools due to relocation (e.g., moving out of district) should be offered open enrollment slots if their interdistrict transfer is granted before April 1.

"If a lottery is needed for open enrollment at LJHS or LHS, priority should be given to applying students who have high-school-age siblings already enrolled in LOSD schools, or who have a sibling accepted for open enrollment via lottery (e.g., if twins apply and one is accepted via lottery, the other would be given priority).

• Continue current practice of accepting tuition students where space is available.




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