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New law prompts Greenwood schools to say no to transfers

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About 30 families who were hoping to send their children to Greenwood schools will be disappointed this school year as the doors are closing to students who live outside the school district.

About 100 students lived elsewhere but chose to attend Greenwood last school year, and up until this spring, the school had been encouraging families to apply to transfer. Greenwood schools had a few requirements for prospective transfer students: They needed to have attained at least a B average at their previous school and couldn’t have any attendance or discipline problems, director of secondary education Rick Ahlgrim said.

That’s because students who have problems keeping their grades up and attending or behaving in class typically have an even harder time meeting those standards when dealing with the stresses of getting to know the teachers and students at a new school, Ahlgrim said.

“That added disruption doesn’t make your challenges easier. It just aggravates them,” Ahlgrim said.

At a glance

A law was passed this year that affects school districts’ transfer policies. Here are the details:

What the law says: School districts that accept transfer students cannot block the transfer of students from another school district for any reason except for space.

What that means locally:

Greenwood: Greenwood, which previously accepted transfers only from students who had a B average and no attendance or discipline problems, is now not accepting any transfers.

Center Grove: Will continue to accept transfer students, though will have to reassess its schools before the 2014-15 school year to see how much space is available.

Franklin: Will continue to accept transfer students.

Clark-Pleasant: Will remain closed to transfer students.

But the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill that bars school districts from denying transfers for any reason other than lack of space. The law is in reaction to concern some parents across the state had that school districts were able to allow only the students they wanted to transfer in, Ahlgrim and other local school officials said.

Most of the money school districts receive to pay for employees’ salaries and benefits is based on the number of students enrolled. So if a student transfers from one school district to another, taxpayer money follows the student to the new school.

Clark-Pleasant schools has been closed to transfers as most of its buildings are near or at capacity, and the school district is focused on making enough room for the students who already live in the school district. Franklin and Center Grove schools, which until now had transfer policies similar to Greenwood’s, will continue to allow students to transfer in, although Center Grove will need to review how much space it has for transfers before the 2014-2015 school year, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

Under the new law, Franklin and Center Grove cannot consider students’ grades, attendance or behavioral record before admitting them. As long as they have room and are admitting students, they have to admit all transfers.

But Greenwood school officials believe that not factoring in a grades and behavior would be setting up students for failure. That’s why Greenwood is closing its doors to all students outside the school district, even though some transfer students would do very well at Greenwood, Ahlgrim said.

“A lot of these kids are kids we’d love to have,” he said. “They’d do great.”

Because enrolling more students means more money, some school districts across Indiana have paid for advertising, including billboards, and offered to send buses to other school districts in order to attract transfers.

About 100 students applied and were accepted to transfer to Franklin schools last school year, Franklin Superintendent David Clendening said. Arkanoff said Center Grove accepted 177 transfer requests for the upcoming school year, most of which were for children of employees.

Both superintendents want to keep their schools open to families interested in transferring, as long as they have room, they said.

“We’ve got to be sure we take care of the folks who live in our district first,” Arkanoff said.

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