Don’t Bus Children Out of School Boundaries, Pleads Mom
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Why do you choose to hurt the little guy?
I am writing this letter to inform the community that Agnes J Johnson Elementary School (AJJ), in Weott, is suffering from low enrollment. This is a direct result of the school district not enforcing school boundaries.It should be unacceptable for the school board/district to consider laying off our fourth teacher unless they do their part in enforcing school boundaries which would drive up enrollment, leaving funding for our teachers an issue of the past.
There are a few things that need to be understood if you choose to take advantage of the free, public schooling provided by the state of CA:
1) Boundaries: Every school district sets boundaries for their schools and children are expected to attend the school within their respective boundaries to their place of residence. Attending a different school within the district requires a written request to be considered and approved (or denied) by the district.
2) Attendance: You are required by law to attend the school you are enrolled in; missing too many days of school is called truancy. The school does not receive funding for the teachers’ salary if attendance is too low!
3) Funding: Small schools do not receive state funding for art, PE, library or music and these programs rely entirely on us (the community)! The state supplies funding in a system of tiers, depending on how many students attend school. AJJ is currently in the three teacher funding tier and JUST under the four teacher funding tier.
To paint a clear picture of what this all means, let’s discuss each issue:
1) Ignoring Boundaries is a HUGE problem in our area. If you don’t already know, Miranda is in the boundaries of Agnes J. Johnson Elementary School. Our school district has chosen to be extremely lax on the enforcement of school boundaries and this has hurt the small schools severely; even to the extent of teachers being laid off and discussion of school closures. Some reasons for this laxness have been due to older siblings already enrolled, school closure consideration, parents’ place of work, mere convenience for parents, parents lying about their address, etc.
I know many of these kids are simply going to Redway school for convenience (as much as I can sympathize for this as I personally drive my little one to preschool in Redway almost daily) however, their choice is quite literally DIRECTLY impacting my family. My daughter’s quality of education WILL be impacted if we lose our fourth teacher and force a combo class of 30 kids in three very different grade levels. The allowances for the lax boundaries has become a vicious cycle… Six years ago they allowed kids living in AJJ boundaries to enroll in the school of their choice because the board thought they might have to close AJJ due to low attendance – which caused enrollment to continue dropping… those families today, continue to enroll younger siblings (also allowed now ‘grandfathered in’ because of their older siblings) in the wrong school – which continues to damage the enrollment at AJJ… As the older siblings move on, sometimes even the next school year, we have 1st grade students enrolled at the wrong school allllll the way through 6th grade simply because they had a sibling that went there once… And the numbers continue to hurt at the small schools which COSTS THE DISTRICT MONEY! I personally brought this issue to the District and the school board 2 years ago when we first discussed adding our fourth teacher… We made our enrollment/attendance goals for state funding so the issue left the table and wasn’t resolved.
Although I do not personally understand why any parent would CHOOSE to lie in order to send their children to a school that is still in “improvement” while the designated school in their boundaries is actually making the grade; it happens A LOT!
I realize that requiring proof of residency is not always easy in such a rural area, but we could pretend that we believe them and not blatantly ignore the fact by sending busses to driveways where families claim not to live! At least one of our local families, however, has not only given the address of grandparents in Garberville, but also somehow got the district to send the bus straight to their driveway to pick up their child IN MIRANDA! I understand there are few situations when personal conflict with an individual may drive one’s decision to switch schools, but at least write the request and gain the proper approval. In many cases, the district needs to be made aware of issues that are getting overlooked because families are just avoiding it instead of making the request and giving their reason! If your transfer request is granted, then by all means, take your kids to a different school.
Were you aware that Southern Humboldt School District has a major shortage of bus drivers that has caused many routes already to be cancelled?
Were you aware that our district pays for a school bus to come into AJJ boundaries to bus the children out to Redway School?
I personally watch nearly 20 elementary school kids get on and off the Redway school bus in Miranda (this doesn’t count the +/- 10 kids who I personally know that get driven to school)… The AJJ bus and the Redway bus LITERALLY stop in tandem at two of these stops.
Wouldn’t it make sense (even without the shortage of drivers) to only pick kids up within the boundaries of their school?
I propose this solution: Stop bussing kids out of AJJ boundaries. If even half of the kids currently bussing out to Redway were to enroll in the school designated to their residence, enrollment would not even be a concern and we would have no chance of losing the funding for our teacher. In effect, many of these student will likely make the transfer simply because the only bus that stops in their driveway happens to be the bus that goes to AJJ. Convenient!
2) Attendance: Our schools rely on us! It’s time we as a community, take a little responsibility for the future of our students!! At AJJ, we currently have 72 kids enrolled. Our average daily attendance has to be at 72.5 students to qualify for a fourth teacher… that means every single student would have to attend school EVERY SINGLE DAY and we would still be one student shy of the goal. Obviously kids will get sick or have family leave, so realistically on average, our daily attendance is more like 65 students…
3) Funding: With an average daily attendance of 65 students the state provides funding for 3 teachers… we have 4. AJJ is 8 students shy of making the state funding tier for that fourth teacher… EIGHT STUDENTS!?!? WHY IN THE HECK is the Redway bus making four stops in Miranda to pick up 20+/- kids and bus them away from their designated school; away from a school that is costing the district more money because of its low enrollment – and we are only 8 students shy?! WTF?
It is my opinion that the district must do their due diligence to enforce school boundaries (or at least stop enabling the problem) before they should even consider laying off a fantastic teacher and reducing us to three teachers.
SHOW UP, STAND UP, BE HEARD! Please come to the board meeting on Thursday Feb 16th at Redway School at 4:30pm to be part of the solution! Boundaries and reducing the staff to 3 teachers are BOTH on the agenda!
Thank you from a very concerned, involved mom!
Mary Halstead, WeOtters Booster Club President
Note: The issue of school boundaries is on Thursday’s School Board Meeting at Redway Elementary School. See the entire agenda here.