ACPS Enrollment Options Change as Schools Near Capacity
Alexandria, Va. — Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) enrollment for the 2012-13 school year was projected to increase by about 3.3 percent, or approximately 412 students. However, summer registrations for kindergarten have been especially heavy and have resulted in the need for additional sections at some schools. The capacity issues will make it difficult to place children new to Alexandria in their home schools.
The addition of new classes at any grade level is nearly impossible, as principals have been using all available space. ACPS is working closely with the city to develop a short-term solution to add "learning cottages" at two elementary schools. During the last three years, enrollments have risen from 10,600 in the spring of 2008 to 12,400 this spring, a 17.4 percent increase. Nearly 30 new modular construction classrooms have been added in the last three years, and plans are under way to construct a new building at Jefferson-Houston School starting this coming school year and at Patrick Henry the following year.
ACPS and federal education policy have traditionally allowed families some flexibility in selecting an elementary school. That flexibility is now greatly reduced. Under the ACPS Modified Open Enrollment policy, parents could register new kindergarten students between April and June 15 (June 1 for modified calendar schools) to ensure placement at their neighborhood schools or schools of their choice for the upcoming school year. In March, the Alexandria City School Board gave Superintendent Morton Sherman flexibility to increase kindergarten class size caps by up to two students to accommodate new registrants. New kindergarten registrations as of the June deadlines were honored as the school capacity levels were not exceeded, and there was no need for a lottery.
ACPS has processed 119 transfer requests for the 2012-13 school year based on school modified open enrollment, administrative transfers and sibling placement. As parents continue to register students during summer, Dr. Sherman has put on hold the placement of any additional administrative transfer requests. This option will be continually reviewed on an individual level throughout the summer, but most administrative transfer requests will not be considered until mid-August. About 95 requests for administrative transfers from nine elementary schools will be kept pending.
"As with most Northern Virginia school divisions, we continue to see rapid enrollment increases," Dr. Sherman said. "We expect our enrollment numbers to reach higher than 12,800 students as school opens this year. Our planning has been on target, with only about a 1-2 percent variation from projected to actual enrollments. Because we take pride in personalized attention to each family, we know that individual children and their families make up these numbers and percentages. Therefore, we pledge to continue our practice of having Coordinator of Pupil Placements Karl Smith personally talk with elementary families, even though the reality is that fewer and fewer requests for transfers can be met. In fact, placement at some neighborhood schools has become quite difficult."
The Virginia Department of Education recently applied for and received a waiver from certain provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The requirement to offer the corrective action known as Public School Choice, or "Choice," has been eliminated.
Although ACPS will not accept new Choice transfers, children who received a Choice transfer in a previous school year may continue to stay at the transfer school through the highest grade offered in that school. In the absence of Choice, ACPS will continue to offer limited transfer opportunities under the administrative transfer process. However, transfers may not be available to all desired schools depending on capacity. Administrative transfers may only be accepted with certain conditions, for example:
- Good attendance and behavior standards must be met and maintained.
- Transportation is not provided.
- Families must demonstrate a sufficient need, such as proximity to a child care provider or guardian's place of work, or a desire to opt in to a dual-language program.
"All of our elementary schools offer exceptional opportunities for students. We have the lowest elementary class sizes in the Metro D.C. area. Our new curriculum focuses on high expectations for all students as we meet the demands of still emerging 21st-century skills, and our teachers, principals and staff are caring professionals who work hard to ensure student success," Dr. Sherman said. "We will work with families to enroll students in their neighborhood schools as capacity allows and to address special needs and requests appropriately as they arise.
"There is no doubt that capacity issues throughout ACPS will continue to be a major focus in the coming months. We appreciate the candid and positive conversations we are having with the city manager as we try to address short-terms needs and to update our long-term facility plans."
For more information about modified open enrollment, visit our website at http://www.acps.k12.va.us/budgets/moe/. For more information on administrative transfers, please see School Board Policy JC-R at: http://www.acps.k12.va.us/admintransfer.php.
Questions regarding administrative transfers may be directed to Karl Smith via e-mail at .