Option to swap schools offered

Students can transfer within district before classes begin

Students at 11 struggling Richmond County schools will be given the option to transfer to better-performing schools no matter where they live in the district before classes begin Aug. 8.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, parents are not required to keep their children enrolled in under-performing schools just because they are zoned to that area, thanks to a regulation called School Choice.

In total, 10,333 Richmond County students will be given the chance to transfer to another school this year, although traditionally only a small percentage of students actually take advantage of the option to move.

In the 2010-11 school year, just 337 out of the 11,130 eligible students chose to change schools. In the 2009-10 year, 378 out of 12,128 possible students switched campuses.

This year, parents can submit an application to have their children transferred if they attend: the Academy of Richmond County, Butler, Cross Creek, Glenn Hills, Hephzibah or Westside high schools; Langford or Murphey middle schools; or Hornsby, Barton Chapel or Jenkins White elementary schools.

Students who choose to transfer are provided free transportation even if their residences are not zoned for their new school.

Administrators are currently sending letters to the homes of eligible students, and parents must submit their applications no later than Aug. 8.

Students are normally given two schools to choose between when transferring out of a Needs Improvement school, but the only option for high schoolers to transfer to this year is Lucy C. Laney High School.

Although Laney has not met Adequate Yearly Progress standards in seven years, it has received almost $2 million since 2010 in a federal School Improvement Grant, which made the school replace half its teachers, invest in technology and enact better instruction strategies.

That grant also reclassified Laney's Needs Improvement status to "adequate" in 2010, even though it did not make AYP again in 2011.

If students from low-income families remain in their Needs Improvement school, they are eligible to receive free tutoring.

Last year, out of 7,425 students who could have received tutoring, 1,926 applied to participate and received services.