The law requires that the lowest-achieving and the poorest children get priorityin the transfers.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Only a fraction of the city schoolchildren who want to move to better schools will get that chance.
The school system has received requests from 168 parents to transfer their children from underachieving schools to better-performing schools under new federal regulations.
But only 37 of the requests -- less than one in four -- will be granted, Superintendent Ben McGee said.
"Space is limited," he said.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind act, parents with children in low-performing public schools can choose to send their children to better schools within the same school district.
School districts must pay to bus pupils to the higher-performing buildings, the law says.
In Youngstown, five of the district's 13 elementary schools (Bennett, Cleveland, Taft, Williamson and Sheridan) and one of its three middle schools (Hillman) have been identified as low performers.
The six schools enroll about 2,500 children, yet the district has received only 168 transfer requests, McGee said.
The law guarantees parents the option of moving their children if there is space available in the better schools in the school system.
McGee said the school district is limited in how many children it can put into a classroom, so only 37 of the requests will be fulfilled.
He said the school district's contract with its teachers caps the pupil-to-teacher ratio in many classrooms at 25-to-1. In addition, state law regulates some class sizes to no more than 18 to 20 pupils, he said.
"What the district does not want to do is actually max classes out unless it has to," he said.
The law requires that the lowest-achieving and the poorest children get priority in the transfers.
"Right now, we're going over the requests and we'll be using that criteria," McGee said. He said he hopes the children will be transferred to their new schools by mid-September.
Youngstown's space constraints aren't unique.
Dayton Superintendent Percy Mack said recently that the school district doesn't have classroom space to grant any transfers. About 10,800 children are enrolled in 15 low-performing elementary schools in Dayton.
In Columbus, about 12,000 children in 31 low-performing schools are eligible for transfers, but the school district estimates only 150 to 300 openings.
Cincinnati has 21 schools on the low-performing list but space for only about 200 transfers. Canton has granted 173 of about 300 transfer requests.
"We knew, and so did every other district in the state, particularly the urban districts, that we would not be able to fill the number of requests matched up to the available slots," McGee said.
Three other area school districts have schools identified as low-performing:
UWarren -- Laird Avenue and Roosevelt elementary schools and Western Reserve Middle School in Warren. Only one parent has requested transfer, but Superintendent Betty English said parents have yet to be formally notified of their option to transfer. English said she still questions the inclusion of Laird Avenue and Roosevelt on the list of underachieving schools. Parents will be formally notified once the state confirms that the two schools should be on the list.
UEast Liverpool -- East Elementary School. Interim Superintendent William Kay said two parents have requested transfers, and their children have been moved. He also said, however, that the school district is challenging East Elementary's inclusion as a low-performing school.
UNiles -- Lincoln Elementary School. Superintendent Patrick Guliano said there have been no requests to transfer out of the school.
Garfield Elementary School in Wellsville also initially was identified as a low-performing school, but Superintendent James Brown said the school has been removed from the list.