Many variables affect school transfers

First Posted: 2/1/2012

It never fails. No sooner does a new school year get under way and school assignments are made, the Central Office of the Public Schools of Robeson County is inundated with requests from parents to transfer their children to another school.

The reasons are many and varied. It could be that they would like to have the child attend a school closer to their place of employment is case of a possible emergency. It could be that they would like to have the child transferred to a school near the home of a grandparent so that the child could be dropped off at the home of a secondary caregiver if necessary when the parent is working. It could even be that they feel that the school being requested is a better performing school than the one to which the child was originally assigned. And the reasons go on and on.

On the surface, it would appear that the request is one which could easily be accommodated. The initial procedure involves first approaching the principal of the school being requested. He or she must decide whether there is room for the child — both from the standpoint of space in the classroom and the availability of a teacher. If the principal feels that there is classroom space and there are sufficient teachers available, then the next step is to make the proper recommendation to the school board for its decision. For the most part, the board acts according to the principal’s recommendation.

Unfortunately, the problems of classroom space and teacher availability are not simple ones to deal with. A school building has only so much space that can be utilized for classes. If a classroom, for example, has been designated to be used for a particular grade level and the state has mandated the number of students that may be instructed in it and you move newly transferred students into it, it stands to reason that it becomes necessary to make adjustments.

If there is another classroom available, you could put the number of students over the state-mandated number into it. That, however, puts the other problem to the forefront. That is, the availability or lack thereof of a teacher to put in that newly created classroom. That, of course, is complicated by the shortage of teachers brought about by the lack of funds with which to pay them.

Still, the average parent seeking to have their child transferred to a school other that the one to which they had been originally assigned sees their request as being a reasonable one since they are not particularly concerned with the problems that may result as the result of the requested transfer. If you think about it, their main concern is how their child is affected. And that is not an unreasonable thing.

One thing that parents need to keep in mind is the effect that overcrowding in a classroom has on the educational process. It is an easy thing to lose sight of in your quest to obtain the transfer. Except in the case of requesting a transfer in order for their child to attend a better preforming school, it’s not the main reason for requesting the transfer. It’s generally accepted, though, that overcrowded classrooms have a negative effect on education.

It’s the school board that has to deal with the situation. Its members, of course, want to cooperate with the parents’ requests. They, after all, want to try to do what’s best for the children and that is what the parents are asking for. Unfortunately, it’s the school board that has to deal with the problems that those transfer requests cause and that is a lot more difficult than you might have originally thought. Obviously, enlarging the school is not an option and, with the current economic conditions, finding funding to accommodate employment of additional teachers is not an easy thing to do.

It has been thought that charging a transfer fee might be the answer, but I could hear the wail of protests coming from parents if that were put forth as a solution. Still, whether it’s the lack of space or the lack of teachers somehow the lack of money has to be at least part of the equation.

The alternative is, simply, to deny the request, which could present a whole other list of problems.

Johnny Hunt is the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County.