Approximately 95 requests for students wishing to attend an Alexandria public school outside their home district have been put on hold because of overcapacity, especially at the kindergarten level.
In addition to putting the brakes on transfers, the school system says it also will have trouble even placing some new students in the schools they're supposed to go to in the first place.
“The capacity issues will make it difficult to place children new to Alexandria in their home schools,” Alexandria City Public Schools announced in a statement released Friday evening.
As parents continue to register students during summer, Superintendent Morton Sherman has put on hold the placement of any additional administrative transfer requests. This option will be reviewed on an individual level throughout the summer, but most administrative transfer requests will not be considered until mid-August, according to ACPS.
ACPS said it has processed 119 transfer requests for the 2012–13 school year based on modified open enrollment, administrative transfers and sibling placement. The system allows parents to request transfers from those schools operating year-round, such as Mount Vernon Community School, if that schedule does not suit their family’s needs. Additionally, students have been allowed to transfer from their home school if they wish to join a sibling attending a school outside their home district.
Federal guidelines also allow a student to transfer if their home school did not achieve certain federal test standards. However, the Virginia Department of Education recently received a waiver from certain provisions of No Child Left Behind, eliminating that option known as Public School Choice, or "Choice.”
ACPS will not accept new Choice transfers, but children who received a Choice transfer in a previous school year may continue to stay at the transfer school through the highest grade offered in that school. In the absence of Choice, ACPS will offer limited transfer opportunities under the administrative transfer process.
ACPS enrollment for the upcoming school year was projected to increase by about 3.3 percent, or approximately 412 students. Sherman said enrollment numbers are expected to reach higher than 12,800 students as school opens this year.
“Summer registrations for kindergarten have been especially heavy and have resulted in the need for additional sections at some schools,” according to ACPS.
The addition of new classes at any grade level is nearly impossible, as principals have been using all available space, the school system said.
ACPS said it is working closely with the city to add “learning cottages” at two elementary schools. During the last three years, enrollments have risen from 10,600 in the spring of 2008 to 12,400 this spring, a 17.4 percent increase. Nearly 30 new modular construction classrooms have been added in the last three years, and plans are under way to construct a new building at Jefferson-Houston School starting this upcoming school year and at Patrick Henry the following year.
In March, the School Board gave Superintendent Sherman flexibility to increase kindergarten class size caps by up to two students to accommodate new registrants.
“Because we take pride in personalized attention to each family, we know that individual children and their families make up these numbers and percentages. Therefore, we pledge to continue our practice of having Coordinator of Pupil Placements Karl Smith personally talk with elementary families, even though the reality is that fewer and fewer requests for transfers can be met. In fact, placement at some neighborhood schools has become quite difficult,” Sherman said.