Columbia County School Board officials will know Tuesday how much response they have received to a new law allowing students to transfer to schools with available space.
Harlem High, Greenbrier Middle and Euchee Creek, North Columbia and Westmont elementary schools are open to the "permissive transfers," which allow parents to request their children be transferred to one of the schools.
If a school receives more transfer requests than spots available, a drawing will be held within three days after the deadline to determine who goes.
Until then, school officials can only speculate as to how the new law, House Bill 251, will affect enrollment numbers.
"We've had several parents call about it, so I'm assuming there are people that are going to take advantage of this," said Kendra Sheldon, an executive secretary in the district administration office who is handling the requests. "But, how many? I wouldn't have a clue."
Assistant Superintendent Robert Jarrell said the county's schools were tighter on space than many counties in the state. Each county was required by July 1 to outline a process for the transfers. Jarrell said Columbia County schools would have had less room if not for the opening of Grovetown High and Stallings Island Middle.
"The rezoning that just took place is what really made the availability there," he said.
Harlem High is the only secondary school open to receive transfers, but the school also is facing the possibility of losing students. The school was placed on the needs-improvement list for failing to meet adequate yearly progress on graduation rates for a second consecutive year, so students have the option of requesting a transfer to Grovetown High.
Incoming Harlem Principal Dietmar Perez will have to wait three days after the permissive transfers are in to determine how many students might leave under school choice. The deadline for parents to submit the proper forms is Friday.
"The people in the community, the students that attend the school and our teachers, they know we have a good school," Perez said. "Like everybody else, we've got a couple of areas we need to work on, and we're going to work on that this year."
Perez, along with officials at other schools accepting permissive transfers, is unsure what his final enrollment will be. He said 850 would be ideal, although right now he is expecting a little more than 700.
Harlem's enrollment last year was about 1,300.
Students who take advantage of the permissive transfers or school choice will have to provide their own transportation, Perez said.
Transfers who wish to play varsity sports will have to sit out a year before they can participate, unless they transfer before their freshman year. Students who move to a school as freshmen can participate immediately. Other transfers can play at the junior varsity level without having to sit out a year.
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