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New law might limit school transfers

Tigard-Tualatin schools will likely open very few slots to incoming students from other districts next year, under a new Oregon law.

The School Board voted Feb. 13 to open just enough slots to grandfather in the district's 73 inter-district and out-of-district students, as well as allow in five additional students from outside the district who wish to enroll in the new Tigard-Tualatin Online Academy, the new online school started by the district, which began this month.

The decision comes on the heels of a new state law that changes the way students can transfer between districts.

Passed last year by the state Legislature, HB 3681 is meant to offer students more choice in what school district they wish to attend.

In the past, students needed a district's permission to transfer, but the new open enrollment law allows districts to choose how many students - and from what districts - the students come from each year.

The 73 students will become permanent students in the district, and no longer need to renew their enrollment at the start of each year.

The new law limits the number of new students who can enter the school district, but does nothing to keep students from transferring out, providing the school receiving them allows them in.

School boards must decide by March 1 how many students they will allow in this year.

Some local districts in the region have already stated their intentions. Beaverton isn't allowing students to transfer into its elementary and middle schools, and Portland Public Schools superintendent Carole Smith announced last week that the district not take any students. Lake Oswego is expected to open its doors for up to 100 new students.

Superintendent Rob Saxton, who has opposed the new law, called it a 'really challenging problem, law and set of circumstances to figure out.'

Saxton said the district will likely keep this year's open enrollment numbers small, but said it would wait and see what other schools are doing before it commits to a number.

District spokeswoman Susan Stark Haydon said that if many of the other districts decide to open themselves to large numbers of transfer students, Tigard-Tualatin would likely follow suit, but said that only grandfathering in current students and allowing only a handful of new students for its online school was a way of keeping things fair between districts.

As part of that mentality, Tigard-Tualatin and Beaverton school districts have worked out a deal not to allow each other's students to transfer, Stark Haydon said. Beaverton School District and Sherwood School District are where the majority of students transfer from, Stark Haydon said.

'I think that our district wants to place a stake in the ground that says that we don't want to go after other district's students,' she said.

- Rebecca Randall contributed to this story.



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