School choice sign-up returns
The program allows children to attend schools outside of their zone.
Published: Monday, January 3, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 3, 2005 at 12:27 a.m.
Parents interested in having their children transfer away from their home-zoned public school are encouraged to take steps early.
AT A GLANCE
The Alachua County school district begins accepting school choice requests today for the next school year. The program allows families to apply for their children to attend schools other than the ones they are assigned.
Being granted a school choice request means a student is granted a seat at the school for the remaining years of his or her education there.
Families must provide their own transportation. Martha Dean, who coordinates the school choice program, said she does not expect the same rush as last year when the school district was flooded with nearly 2,000 applications. That came after the school district approved a plan to redraw the attendance zones at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Of the students whose families applied to transfer last year, more than 60 percent were elementary-school age, according to district data.
"The majority of the applications we expect this year are kindergartners," she said.
The rezoning plan approved for this school year reassigned more than 2,700 elementary school children, 200 middle school pupils and 580 high school students. But many of those students used the transfer requests to stay at their school.
School choice requests were granted to families of more than 600 elementary-school students for this school year.
Still others were allowed to stay at their school if they were entering fifth grade, eighth grade or were already a high school freshman.
The deadline to apply for school choice for the 2005-06 year is Jan. 31.
If families miss the deadline, they still can apply to transfer schools. The other option to parents without a set deadline is to apply for a zoning exception. Unlike school choice requests, a zoning exception lasts only a year. A few of the district's more crowded schools are closed to transfer requests, Dean said.
Those schools include Lawton Chiles, Norton and Talbot elementary schools, Fort Clarke Middle School and Buchholz, Gainesville and Santa Fe high schools, she said.
"We won't offer choice because we know (those schools) will be over capacity," she said.
School choice is offered only if a school's projected enrollment is lower than its listed capacity. A school with a listed capacity of 700 but a projected enrollment of 600 students would have 100 seats open for school choice.
When a school has more applications than seats available, the district will use a weighted lottery system to pick the students who will get the open seats.
Douane D. James can be reached at (352) 374-5087 or email@example.com.
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