Follow guidelines for zoning exceptions

Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 1:22 p.m.

In any given school year, the Alachua County school district is bombarded with zoning requests. Literally, hundreds of requests are made each year for students to attend a particular school outside of their zoned school.

There seems to be the notion that once a request is made, and if the paperwork is submitted early, an approval will be granted. However, this is not an automatic process where parents make a request and the request will be approved.

There are so many variables to consider. Each request is determined on its individual merits. There are no preferential treatments or entitlements given to families based on name, favoritism, gender, race, religion or any political persuasion.

The zoning policy for Alachua County Public Schools states that schools that have space or are under capacity may receive out-of-zone students under the following conditions:

* Parents employed by the School Board.

* Hardship to the family.

* Medical/psychological needs.

* Police/Department of Children & Families request.

* Victim of a violent crime.

It is the School Board's expectations that children receiving an exemption will remain in the assigned school until a zoning exception is granted.

Also, zoning administrators will consult with both principals before granting a zoning exception. The student's behavior and school attendance may be considered when reviewing requests for zoning exceptions.

* A zoning exception may not be granted if the student accrued any of the following:

* Ten days of out-of-school suspension in the previous school year.

* Six days or more of unexcused absences the previous semester.

* Ten or more days of tardy arrivals the previous school year.

Zoning exceptions are only for the academic year in which the exception is granted. Subsequent years require a new application and approval.

Parents and students should be aware that the principal may request to revoke a student based on poor attendance, excessive tardiness, early departures and misbehavior. Requests based on behavior also must take into account the age, disability, disciplinary history, seriousness of offenses, strength of the evidence with offenses and whether the student exhibits remorse.

To appeal zoning denials, parents must reactivate the application with a letter stating the reasons for further review. The superintendent and a committee will reconvene to review any new information for a final decision.

On occasion, there are experienced candidates for exceptions who will make attempts to circumvent the process. In such cases, the initial application will not considered. It is the expectation that families will follow the guidelines. In addition, sports, cheerleading teams and other extracurricular activities are not a reason for zoning approvals.

Homebuyers beware: Please determine what addresses are zoned for which schools before making a purchase. This applies to renters as well.

Parents and students, I hope that your experiences this school year will be the best year yet for you.

Good luck.

Philoron A. Wright Sr. is assistant to the superintendent of community and schools for Alachua County Public Schools.

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