School choice transfer deadline Wednesday

COVINGTON - Parents of students at Liberty Middle School and Middle Ridge Elementary School have until Wednesday to complete an application for school choice if they do not want their students attending their assigned school for the 2009-10 school year.

As determined by Adequate Yearly Progress and required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the schools must offer a choice of attending another school in the Newton County School System once they are placed on the state's Needs Improvement list.

Liberty Middle and Middle Ridge Elementary are on the list as a result of not making AYP for two or more consecutive years. Liberty Middle School is opening for the first time this school year, but students from Clements Middle School will attend Liberty since Clements is becoming a parent-involvement theme school for students who applied to the program.

"In compliance with the requirements of NCLB, all students enrolled in a school that is in Needs Improvement have the opportunity to enroll in a school not designated as Needs Improvement," said Dr. Sheila Thomas, director of federal programs at NCSS, in a letter to parents on July 14. "Newton County Schools will meet transportation requirements for Public School Choice as specified under NCLB and the district's transportation guidelines. Your student may remain at the choice school until the highest grade is completed. However, once your student's school is no longer identified for Needs Improvement, Newton County is no longer obligated to provide arrangements for transportation."

In the past, NCSS has provided bus transportation for choice students, but for the 2009-10 school year, the school system will provide for transportation in the form of reimbursement at a state-approved rate for mileage to and from the school of choice, as allowed under NCLB. The amount of payment is determined by the student's attendance.

"Extenuating circumstances regarding transportation needs will be examined on a case-by-case basis," Thomas said in another letter to parents.

Students assigned to Liberty Middle may attend Cousins Middle or Veterans Memorial Middle; those assigned to Middle Ridge Elementary may attend Heard-Mixon or East Newton elementary schools.

Parents who wish for their children to transfer for the new school year must submit an application to NCSS by delivering it or mailing it to Dr. Sheila Thomas, Director of Federal Programs at Newton County School System, 2109 Newton Drive, Covington, Georgia 30014 or P.O. Box 1469, Covington, Georgia 30014. The department must receive all signed documents on or before 4 p.m. Wednesday.

In addition to offering school choice, the schools are developing plans for academic improvement in the areas in which they did not meet AYP - students with disabilities in the areas of math and reading/English language arts.

Both Liberty Middle and Middle Ridge Elementary schools must meet AYP for two consecutive years before being removed from the state's list.

Since Porterdale Elementary School now has met AYP for two consecutive years after not meeting it for two or more consecutive years and therefore being placed on the Needs Improvement list, this year the school system will not provide transportation to the school for choice students since it is no longer on the list.

"Porterdale Elementary School has worked diligently this year to improve in the area of academics and has shown significant progress," Thomas said in a letter to parents. "(NCSS) is not required to provide transportation for students who elected to exercise choice. (Those students) may remain at the choice school until the highest grade is completed or may return to his/her home school ... however, the Newton County School System will no longer provide transportation to the choice school."

Parents who have questions or concerns regarding school choice should contact the Office of Federal Programs by calling 770-787-1330, ext. 1250.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.