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Hall schools could be open to tuition-paying students
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The days of enrolling in Hall County schools based upon proximity may soon come to an end.

Monday night, the Hall County Board of Education, per Superintendent Will Schofield’s recommendation, voted to move forward with a committee charged with looking into opening up Hall schools to anyone in the county — and out.

The superintendent will form a committee, likely to include one representative from the board, that will spend the next 90 to 120 days addressing the possibility of removing school borders and potentially opening up Hall schools to out-of-county, tuition-paying students, space permitting.

“The movement is twofold,” said Schofield. “No. 1: It’s just what we think is good for children in giving parents choices that fit their child best in terms of the different options we have in our school district. The other, in terms of out-of-district students, is, quite honestly, an economic one. If we have empty space and the fixed costs are in place, is there a way we can open those seats to children outside of our district on a tuition basis, again, to increase our economy of scale and make us more efficient in terms of what we can offer our kids.”

The board did not approve the open-border policy, just the committee to look into the possibility. How much tuition would be was not discussed.

Early ideas include opening up schools, regardless of location, with open seats to in-county students first for a period of 30 days. After that time, if there are still open seats, schools would be opened to tuition-paying students.

But, officials said, there are some issues to address, including if students will be grandfathered into the corresponding chain of schools.

For example, if a student joins a middle school not in his or her assigned district, will he or she be grandfathered into the corresponding high school if space is limited?

There are also federal requirements for the county’s 11 charter schools, and 10 more schools are already programs of choice that accept out-of-county students.

“There are tremendous challenges because we have so many different plates spinning at one time,” said Schofield. “It will be a fairly involved process. There will be a lot of issues that will be explored, but I think it’s time.”

The committee will likely report back to the board with a recommendation in late January or early February

“I don’t have any idea what the interest level would be,” said Schofield. “I do know this: As a parent, I’ll put our programs up against any programs in the state of Georgia and I just think if we have empty seats we ought to be making those available to families that might not live within our borders.”

Earlier in the meeting, the board voted to restore one furlough day to the schedule.

A professional learning, or teacher workday, will be added back on Feb. 15, 2013.

School officials said it was in the teachers’ best interest to add a workday instead of a student day.

“I get into our schools almost every day and our teachers are as good as they come, but they’re being overwhelmed by a new evaluation system, by a rollout of the Common Core and we’ve got to look for opportunities to give them a chance to catch their breath and assimilate,” Schofield said.

“We’ve got to take care of our people so they can take care of our children.”

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