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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 20, 2003

Geographic exceptions available

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

Public-school students and their parents can apply for geographic exceptions to attend campuses outside of their home schools for the next school year.

Although any student can apply for a geographic exception, children who attend low-performing schools will be given the highest priority for the available spaces.

The change is due to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates yearly improvement in the nation's high-poverty schools.

The DOE has identified 82 schools that have not met minimum levels for standardized math and reading scores and attendance.

Students transferring under the No Child Left Behind Act will also be eligible for free transportation, for which regular students are not eligible.

Also, priority among the No Child Left Behind applicants will be given to the students with the greatest economic and academic needs. Kindergarten students will be ranked based on economic need only.

March 3 is the deadline for all students to apply for a geographic exception.

Geographic exceptions have long been a part of the Hawai'i school system, but were offered under the special provisions of No Child Left Behind for the first time last fall. However, because students would have had to change schools in the middle of the semester, the option was not popular. More than one-fourth of the state's public-school children were eligible to transfer to a different school, but less than 1 percent of those eligible applied.

Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said that even of the 131 parents who applied for the geographic exceptions last fall, only about 20 chose to move their students to a new campus.

"That offer is still available," Hamamoto said this week.

DOE officials said they expect more parents to apply for the geographic exceptions this year, but are not sure what the numbers will look like. Families with children in low-performing schools also have been able to apply for outside tutoring services under No Child Left Behind, which has been a more popular option.

"Most parents have chosen to stay at their school and accept additional services, which is what we would recommend," she said. Hamamoto said the tutoring avoids the social and academic adjustment period that comes with changing schools.

Just in case it receives an avalanche of requests, the DOE has braced for the worst-case scenario: a bureaucratic nightmare of organizing student transportation and the physical shuffling of thousands of students. Last fall, parent letters were mailed out in a dozen languages, principals were prepped on procedures and the Department of Education waited for a deluge that never came.

To apply to send a child to a different campus, parents or guardians need to contact the principal at their home school.

A list of schools that students can transfer away from is available on the DOE's Web site at doe.k12.hi.us under "News."

Students who are already attending a different campus on a geographic exception do not need to apply for another one; they are allowed to remain in their new school until they move on to middle school or high school.

Reach Jennifer Hiller at jhiller@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.