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ACPS Puts School Transfer Requests on Hold

School system says capacity issues will also make it difficult to place some children at their home schools.

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.

Barbara Buloff July 15, 2012 at 04:53 PM
This is a painful and sad situation for all. Hopefully creative and intelligent minds will prevail and help our children get the educations they deserve.
Tracey July 15, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Don't you just love paying the city $7000 in property tax only to be told your child is COMPELLED to attend a school that failed to meet AYP? How absurd and embarrassing. Perhaps this is why Alexandria is the slowest growing area in NOVA. How is it that Fairfax does so much more with so much less?
Edmund Lewis July 16, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Here is a thought: ACPS could take the millions of dollars spent on consultants, and now apparently local reporters, and put that towards additional classrooms for our students. The waste within this system is astounding and there must be dramatic change in administration because the situation is getting worse, not better. http://alextimes.com/2012/07/alexandria-city-public-schools-paid-education-reporter-for-advice/
vcdr July 16, 2012 at 12:56 PM
This is just sad. Knowing at least one person who is looking to transfer their child into MVCS, and knowing the difficulty they have had to date in getting straight answers out of their home-zone administrators as to the decision regarding the transfer - families throughout Alexandria are getting the white knuckle ride through the inability of ACPS to make concrete decisions, decisions which affect their ability to plan for their children. I mean, seriously - MVCS starts its school year in 2.5 weeks. Is ACPS really going to continue dragging out their broad-handed decision-making approach with these looming deadlines?
LY July 16, 2012 at 03:05 PM
If ACPS was able to be more vigilant in identifying and removing the students who illegally attend school in Alexandria, yet live in DC or Southern Maryland there would be plenty of room to honor student requests.
Resident 22301 July 16, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Where is our school board on this issue? Don't they establish the school system's policies? They've been asking for a waiver to No Child Left Behind for quite some time, but they don't appear to have had contingency plans - at least none that were developed with public input.
Boyd Walker July 16, 2012 at 05:03 PM
This is a problem I heard a lot about while campaigning for City Council, and I was asked what the biggest problem with the school was during one of the debates. I knew the answer: capacity. Of course it is very difficult to accomodate every family that wants to send their child to the neighborhood school, and every parent who wants to send their kid to the school of their choice. I heard about this problem also when meeting with Mort Sherman and heard high numbers of kindergarten enrollment at a school board meeting I attended, so they knew the problem was coming. I proposed that the city turn over vacant city property like the Health Department or the sign shop on Powhatan to create new smaller neighborhood schools. So what is being done? I would like to hear from some of the School Board and City Council Candidates Candidates as to how to solve this problem in the short term and offer long term solutions.
Robert July 16, 2012 at 05:08 PM
@LY- On my street, a minivan with Maryland tags pulls up at an elderly couple's home each and every morning at 7:25 a.m. sharp. The doors open and out pour 4 kids aged 6-12. Minutes later they're all on the corner waiting for the bus. That's 4 spots being stolen from tax-paying Alexandria residents. Anyone know who I could inform? It's irritated me from the time I realized what was going on.
Robert July 16, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Nothing is being done. And yet they're building 1600 homes over in Potomac Yard WITHOUT a school. It's borderline criminal.
Edmund Lewis July 16, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Plan, now that deserves a chuckle. Like the students, the School Board is on vacation. No Alexandria School Board meetings scheduled for July, unlike Arlington and Fairfax. It is beyond comprehension that Alexandria families place their faith in the leaders of this system who continually fail them at almost every turn. How many more "issues" must arise in a school system so small before the citizens of Alexandria will open their eyes and finally realize what is actually happening? A clear change is needed in November and a new Superintendent must be hired soon after.
Haunches July 17, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I wonder what happened in 2007-2008 which caused the school population to skyrocket 17.4% in 3 years and another spike of 3.4% next year? Whatever could it be? I recall when Cameron Station was built and the city swore on all that which is holy that fewer than 100 children would live there, so it let the developer keep land the army turned over. One year later we had to buy it back at an obscene price to build Samuel Tucker. Saame pattern is happening at Potomac Yard. The city reallybelieves its taxpayers are bottomless wells of money.
Kim Moore July 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM
I would love to know what the School Board has to say about this, but alas, their meeting minutes have not been approved since December. Haunches asked what happened in 2007-2008 that drove up our student population. I suspect that the recession played a role. Homes became more expensive, prices on everything went up and many parents who had been planning on private education opted for our public schools instead. The city must also become vigilant about non-residents attending school in Alexandria.
Robert July 17, 2012 at 12:21 PM
I remember that Haunches. I've heard rumors that they're hoping that the Arlandria redevelopment will push out a lot of students.
LY July 17, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Please report it, and refer to these two documents, one of which is signed by the superintendent http://www.acps.k12.va.us/enroll/residency-law.pdf http://www.acps.k12.va.us/enroll/residency-verification-form.pdf Office of Student Services at 703-824-6650. Dr. Morton Sherman, Superintendent Phone: 703-824-6610 E-mail: superintendent@acps.k12.va.us
elizabeth July 17, 2012 at 03:17 PM
i had a feeling that this was coming. i am one of those who has a transfer on hold. so, not only am i compelled to send my son to a long-time failing school, but i have to do so when there is a non-failing school mere blocks from my house (vs. almost a mile to failing school). the zoning in the city needs to be re-evaluated as it is clearly obvious that attendance and enrollment patterns have changed drastically since 1999. could we also touch for a moment on the fact that school starts in less then 6 weeks and parents are being kept in the dark by the school administration about the availability of Choice Waivers (they only removed them once the NCLB waiver was granted 6/29) and how this will affect their children's enrollment. when, exactly, are they planning to tell waiver applicants where they will be going to school? the friday before labor day??
McBrinn July 17, 2012 at 06:07 PM
elizabeth- if you're home school is Jefferson Houston, you're probably out of luck. They're increasing capacity there so transfers away from that crappy school will likely become more difficult.
Joseph M. July 17, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Charter schools, anyone? ACPS isn't exactly turning around.
Bill Campbell July 17, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Perhaps the only guarantee in educating a child, in public, private or a charter school, is that: a socially-well adjusted child; a quality teacher; and positively-involved parents offers the best recipe toward maximizing a child’s educational abilities. Family income and education levels are also strong indicators/contributors toward future success. Labels describing a school fortunately have minimal direct impact. The fact that schools like Jefferson-Houston, perhaps rightfully so, are labeled as “crappy”, or “failing” has essentially no effect on the majority of children who successfully navigate these types of schools. Having said that, I think that parenting is the most valuable thing that a human is called upon to do and districts should always look to maximize choices for families. In an idyllic world, all transfers would be honored at all times. However, also in that idyllic world, all parents would be positively involved in the education of their children and so all parents would opt out of a “failing” school. But we know that in our real world, this does not happen. So what does a community do then? This blog does not allow space to elaborate, but I’m planning a series of Q&As in the coming months and I look forward to the dialogue. To finish on a less esoteric note, I think the next school board will have to address three major issues: achievement, boundary adjustments (choice/capacity) and leadership (superintendent retention/selection).
Kim Moore July 18, 2012 at 01:53 AM
If I were a parent who was waiting to learn where my child will be attending school, I would be calling central office every morning and afternoon. Be the squeaky wheel. Force ACPS to give you answers. You are not asking them a difficult question. Demand the information that your family needs. If ACPS does not respond, then contact members of City Council to enlist their help. If you live in an attendance zone and what to move your child out of it, the push might be more difficult. If you live in the attendance zone where you want you child to go to school, then push loud and hard. There is nothing wrong with doing that. Alternatively, not moving kids out of some schools could create a stronger parent base to push the school to do better.
Mark Williams July 18, 2012 at 02:39 AM
This situation has been coming for a while, and ACPS has been engaged in various build-out projects. But when you look at the actual numbers, this particular year went way over anyone's immediate projections. Way over, in the hundreds. Some admin transfers that were timely requested (like, months ago) clearly should be treated with deference. But the most recent few months' enrollment figures are just staggering. The City needs to expand the build-outs, will also need at least two additional school buildings, and - yes - must crack down on any suspected out-of-district enrollments. What may not be commonly known is that, under VA state law, the City must provide certain Special Ed services even to non-resident students, believe it or not.
Edmund Lewis July 18, 2012 at 03:12 AM
When ACPS recently submitted and approved it's operating budget it decreased the number of classroom and special education teachers at schools throughout the city. Not something a district usually does when they are preparing for an influx of new students. Various build-out projects may have been put into place this summer had there not been millions of dollars of CIP mismanagement under this Superintendent. This is not a situation which caught anyone by surprise and is certainly not due to additional special education services provided by ACPS (ACPS must provided special education services to resident students who are in the city public system, may be home schooled, or enrolled in a private school, they do not have to provide services for non-residents unless they are financially reimbursed.) This enrollment debacle is nothing new under this Superintendent. There was an issue with placing students at the beginning of last school year, some students were taking taxis, paid for by the school system, to get them to schools across town. Imagine that, as a parent, placing your 5 year old in a taxi for their first two weeks of school. Again, this is indicative of system which puts on a public image of success but fails at it's most basic duties. Citizens wake up.
NoBS July 18, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I'm glad my only child is grown and out of ACPS. If you want real change, dump the current members of the school board and elect the newcomers in November.
carla blanch July 19, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Hey...how about the 4% pass rate at Patrick Henry on the SOL's? That's right...4th grade math...4%....not much better at other grade levels or subjects. And that was Mort's hand picked principal!!!!
carla blanch July 19, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Carla Branch beseeched me to share with her what I knew of the superintendent's wrongdoing, pledging confidentiality...hmmm. -Voltaire
Kim Moore July 19, 2012 at 02:42 AM
I agree that the school attendance zones need to be revisited. My attendance zone is nowhere near my home despite Maury being within blocks and Mt. Vernon being down the street from my home. Years ago, after our children's doing so well in year-round pre-school, we were able to transfer to Mt. Vernon. Sending our kids to Jeff-Houston did not work because of the calendar and because they would not be going to school with any of their friends, all of whom lived in our neighborhood. I am surprised that the local realtors are not more vocal about the school zones and the threat of home buyers not being able to send their kids to their neighborhood school. These issues have to be hurting their business.
carla blanch July 19, 2012 at 02:44 AM
YOU MUST READ THIS...http://acpsunderground.blogspot.com/2011/01/us-waits-for-superman-alexandria-waits.html
Haunches July 19, 2012 at 10:37 AM
Alexandria declared itself a sanctuary city in October 2007. Within a few months the school population started spiking, especially combined with efforts in other local jurisdictions to control illegal immigration (Prince William mostly). That has been the experience of every other city declaring itself a sanctuary city.
matt tallmerq July 19, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Why, pray tell, would anyone want to read what an education reporter who turns out to be a paid flak for the school system has to say about ACPS?
NoBS July 19, 2012 at 01:57 PM
ACPS underground is a teacher's blog.
McBrinn July 19, 2012 at 02:29 PM
And a crappy one at that.

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