Charleston County parents who want to transfer their children to schools they're not zoned to attend will go through a new application process this year.
Student transfer requests
Charleston County parents who are considering a voluntary transfer request for the 2014-15 school year must apply by March 31.
For more information, go to: www.ccsdschools.com and click on the "Voluntary Transfer" link, or pick up forms at any of the eight constituent school district offices or call any of the following districts:
District 1/St. James-Santee: (843) 849-2878
District 2/Moultrie: (843) 849-2878
District 3/James Island: (843) 762-5470
District 4/North Charleston: (843) 745-7150
District 9/St. Johns: (843) 937-6513
District 10/St. Andrews: (843) 762-5470
District 20/Peninsula: (843) 937-6513
District 23/St. Paul's: (843) 745-7150
The county school board agreed in January to overhaul its voluntary student transfer policy, and those changes were designed to streamline the application process as well as make it fairer.
"It seemed to be a process without end," said Mike Bobby, the district's chief of finance and operations. "It seemed to be disjointed and inconsistently applied, and it didn't seem to be transparent."
Parents request transfers through different constituent school boards depending on where they live, and those eight boards varied in the ways they handled the process.
Principals used to decide whether space was available to admit students who didn't live in their attendance zones, but district officials have taken that responsibility away from them and created a formula to determine schools' capacity.
The former process put some principals in an awkward position when parents asked them to make room for their children, said Chris Fraser, the former board policy committee chairman who worked on this new policy.
"It will clean up the process, and it will take the personal conflicts out of it," he said.
Constituent districts also had different timelines for the transfer process, and that sometimes turned the moves into a year-round affair, Bobby said. The board agreed to change the process so all transfer applications must be made during a certain window of time, rather than on a first-come, first-served basis, he said. That window is open now, and the deadline to apply for a transfer for the 2014-15 school year is March 31.
"You don't have to stand in line at midnight to get in first," Bobby said.
At the end of that time, if more students applied than spaces are available, officials will use a lottery to admit students and create a waiting list. Parents who have been granted transfers don't need to reapply for the 2014-15 school year; their children will be allowed to remain in the schools to which they transferred.
"The goal here was to be consistent so no matter where you live in the county, you'd be given the same access as anybody else," Bobby said.
The process gives children of Charleston County school employees priority on those lists, but Bobby said the district has received a "great deal of feedback" from principals who want that changed. Bobby plans to ask the county school board to reconsider its policy for employees' children and allow them to be admitted to the employees' choice of school, regardless of whether capacity has been exceeded.
Bobby said the number of students involved in those situations is low - Mount Pleasant schools had a total of 50 applications for employees' children transfers for this year - and this will help the district's teacher recruitment and retention efforts.
Until that change is made, all employees who want to request a transfer should apply through the standard process, he said.
The voluntary transfer process does not apply to magnet or partial magnet programs, or to any school that has a separate application process. Students attending a school outside their neighborhood through this process must provide their own transportation.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.