Hall County HB 251 implementation
- Transfer request forms must be submitted between July 1 and July 21
- Transfers will be granted after the 10th day of the school year as long as there is space available at the school
- Parents must provide transportation to the school of choice
- If a transfer is requested for students with Individualized Education or Accommodation plans, the school does not have to develop those services as long as they are available within the school system
- If the number of transfer requests exceeds the amount of available space at a school, transfers will be approved or denied based on a lottery
- Students approved for transfer can complete up to the highest grade at the school but do not automatically receive enrollment preference to the feeder school
- Statutory preference is allowed for parents enrolling twins in the same school but no other sibling priority is allowed
Hall County Schools not affected
by HB 251
- Martin Technology Academy, McEver Arts Academy, Sardis Enrichment School, Spout Springs School of Enrichment, Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences
Academy and World Language Academy
- All Hall County middle schools
- All Hall County high schools
- Any Hall County school that has been open for four years or less
- Programs of choice, such as the Advanced Scholars Academy at Riverbend
Georgia House Bill 251 allows parents to pick their child's school, but the number of charter schools and programs of choice in Hall County might complicate the process.
HB 251 was created in 2009 by Georgia Rep. Alisha Morgan, D-Austell. The bill creates a public school choice framework under which parents can request their children be transferred to another school in the system, provided there is room for them there.
"It's not related to charters, so it doesn't apply to them," said Sally Krisel, director of innovative and advanced programs for Hall County. "Let's say I lived in the Chicopee district and really wanted my child to go to Lula, which is not a charter. I would choose the option under HB 251."
Transfer request forms for the 2011 to 2012 school year must be submitted by July 21, but parents will not find out whether their child can be transferred until after the 10th day of school, according to a letter sent out from Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield.
"It probably has less impact here than in other counties because we already have so many charter schools and programs of choice," Krisel said. "In some ways we were already ahead of the game."
Gainesville City Schools were also ahead of the game, having implemented a school of choice program several years ago.
"HB 251 will not impact Gainesville City Schools," Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said in an email to The Times. "The school choice policies were on the horizon and coming our way in 2001 when we made the decision to open schools of choice with magnet programs. It has been a good decision for us."
Though HB 251 has been in effect for a while, Eloise Barron, Hall County assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said she only got a good response in the 2009 school year.
"Because we have eight charter schools, we do not have a lot of interest. Most parents who want choice schools go the charter route," she said.
Only a handful of parents have expressed interest for the 2011 year. Barron said the requests she received thus far in 2011 have been for Flowery Branch High School, which is four years old and therefore is not covered by HB 251.
Next year, however, she said there might be renewed interest in transferring to the school.
"Your zip code sometimes determines the quality of education you get," Morgan said. "Certainly many parents are happy with where their kids go to school and that's fine, but not all are. We get to choose our doctors. Why not be able to choose when it comes to something as important as education?"
Hall County's existing charter schools are not included in HB 251 transfers. Programs of choice, such as the DaVinci Academy and the Advanced Scholars Academy, add a twist, however.
"Let's say I wanted my child to go to Riverbend. It could work both ways," Krisel said. "House Bill 251 would apply for my child to go to Riverbend, but not to be in the Advanced Scholars program."
Morgan said as HB 251 continues to be revised, she hopes a "space" will be defined. She said some districts define open space for transfers based on the number of seats in a classroom, while others have modular and trailer classrooms to accommodate bigger classes.
"We defined it as being 85 percent of capacity," Barron said.
Morgan, who referred to herself as a product of a school of choice program, said she wanted to create a public policy that made it easier for parents to have a say in their kids' education.
Before HB 251, parents could apply for their kids to be involved in charter schools, magnet schools, private schools and programs of choice. It was difficult to transfer within the public school system unless extenuating circumstances, such as medical needs, were present, Morgan said. HB 251 does not require any reason for a transfer request.
"It was very difficult to access. This was about creating a universal system that's accessible for every parent," she said.