Attendance boundaries policy options revised

WOODSTOCK – The attendance boundary change figured into Shenandoah County School Board’s discussion on its proposed $64 million operating budget during a work session this week.

Last month, Superintendent Jeremy Raley had presented the board with two policy revisions in regard to attendance boundaries. Similarities between the two options include allowing children of full-time employees to follow their parents to the campus where they work and allowing students with disabilities to attend a school outside their attendance boundary for instructional and programmatic needs offered at a particular school.

The differences between the two options is which grades would be allowed to stay at their current high school and which grades would be provided school transportation.

“We did talk about the equity concern there and access for those families who may not be able to get their children to and from school,” Raley said during a budget work session on Wednesday.

“If we were to allow 11th graders to stay and we provided door to door transportation, that’s going to be an exceptional cost,” he said.

After receiving community feedback on the revisions, Raley presented the board with a new Option B policy revision, which allows students in ninth, 10th and 11th grades to finish their high school career at their current high school. These students would also be provided school transportation in the form of consolidated bus stops, which would only be in place for three years until the current ninth-graders graduate.

“They would be for high school kids only, they would be on the fringes of the borders, and we would be able to utilize current transportation routes, and pick them up at these consolidated bus stops and get them to school where they would be enrolled,” he said. “That’s a shared responsibility. That has responsibility on the school division side and responsibility on the parents’ side.”

He added that this revised policy option has little or no budgetary cost for the school division.

Chairwoman Karen Whetzel asked if additional drivers would be required. Raley replied that it’s tough to determine at this point.

Board member Cynthia Walsh said she has spoken with people from other school divisions who have been through redistricting and she said they have added consolidated bus stops for their students.

Board member Katheryn Freakley added, “Based on the community feedback that we’ve gotten, the concern for the high school students is very much a real thing and we need to acknowledge that.”

“If this is a way we can get these high school kids to finish out where they would like to finish out and take that into consideration based on the community feedback, while being financially responsible for the division and accomplishing the goal,” she added.

All board members agreed that this was the best option given to the board.The School Board will vote on the proposed budget at its 5 p.m. March 10 work session. The budget for fiscal year 2016-2017, at $64,087,509, is $3.6 million more than the 2015-2016 budget of $60,482,925.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com