St. Charles School Board debates whether changes should be made to student transfer policy

St. Charles School Board members are debating whether to change the district’s policy on allowing students to transfer to a different elementary school in the district.

St. Charles School Board members are debating whether to change the district’s policy on allowing students to transfer to a different elementary school in the district.

The issue was discussed during the Nov. 28 St. Charles School Board’s Policy Committee meeting. Administrative placement, known as cap and send, occurs when the number of new enrollments in a specific grade level of an attendance area school exceeds the class size guidelines for that given grade level, Executive Director of Elementary Education Jarrod Buxton told School Board members.

The newly enrolled students will be sent to a partner school within the district with D303 transportation bearing the responsibility for transporting the students to and from school.

“When a new student is capped, parents are offered the opportunity to also send siblings to the partner school, keeping their families together,” Buxton said.

Currently, there are 47 students districtwide that are attending a partner school because of a grade level cap as either a capped student or the sibling of a capped student, he said. That includes 10 kindergarten students, seven first grade students, six second grade students, eight third grade students, nine fourth grade students and seven fifth grade students.

In addition to cap and send, a student’s parent or guardian may request a transfer for their child to a district school other than the one assigned. This is currently done no earlier than 8 a.m. on the first Tuesday following spring break or no later than 4 p.m. on the third Monday following spring break.

After topping out at more than 200 requests, the number of waiver requests have been decreasing steadily, Buxton said.

“Currently, we have 93 students for this year who are attending a school on a waiver,” he said.

Administration is proposing that beginning with the 2023-2024 school year, students attending an elementary school on a 2022-23 school year waiver may complete their elementary education at the school to which they are currently waived. Starting next year, there would be no new intra-district waiver requests, Buxton said.

“That process would go away,” he said.

In addition, students administratively placed in an elementary school would have the option to remain at that school as long as their family assumes responsibility for transportation, assuming there is a space in their attendance area school.

Buxton said the proposed new rules would provide several benefits, including helping to lift the burden on the district’s transportation department. He noted that nationwide and locally, there is a serious shortage of bus drivers.

The Illinois State Board of Education recommends that bus trips be limited to not more than an hour one way whenever possible.

“Currently we do have several routes lasting more than one hour,” Buxton said.

He said the proposed revisions are also necessary to align with the district’s core value of belonging and to allow buildings to effectively plan for staffing, hiring and space allocation for the upcoming school year.

Board members requested additional information to support the changes. They plan to discuss the issue again during their Jan. 30 Policy Committee meeting.

Board member Becky McCabe wasn’t totally sold on the proposal.

“I think there are needs of families that could be solved by going to another school and they don’t have the luxury to move,” she said.

Board Vice President Joseph Lackner said he was trying to understand “whose sense of belonging does this really improve?”

“I’m trying to really understand what the positive outcome is,” he said.

Buxton said that is a good point.

“We know there’s not a perfect answer here,” he said. “Allowing them to finish out their elementary time in that school helps honor those relationships that have been built.”

Lackner said the School Board might want to wait until it sees some of the results of a demographic study that is being done.

“That’s going to give us a better window into population change potential over time than I think we’ve had in the past,” he said.

Board member Jillian Barker agreed.

“This is a good start of a conversation about this,” she said.

Barker said that a student‘s social and emotional needs might be a reason to allow a student to transfer.

“There are situations where bullying takes place and a child no longer has a sense of belonging at a school,” she said.