About 165 kids flee schools feds call ‘failing’

School officials say a larger-than-expected number of families have chosen to transfer their kids to other elementary schools, due to federal intervention.

About 165 students will move to new schools. The figure comprises about 16 percent of the combined enrollment. That’s on top of the school district’s regular 170 transfers this year.

Last month, the federal government released a yearly progress list for standardized test scores. It listed six Oak Harbor schools as failing, along with 60 percent of schools in Washington State.

As a result, two elementary schools faced consequences under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Parents at Crescent Harbor Elementary and Olympic View Elementary were given the option to transfer their child to another Oak Harbor school that did meet test targets. The schools were affected because they accept federal money for low-income students.

Originally, about 190 students signed up to transfer out, but 20 changed their minds and five moved into other districts.

After hearing the news, school employees began searching for more space and relocating teachers. The school choice students were moved to either Broad View Elementary or Oak Harbor Elementary, which each passed test goals.

“We honored about 95 percent of the transfer requests, and at the same time, class sizes are below limit,” Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon said at Monday’s school board meeting. “They’re relatively balanced.”

However, it took some shuffling. At Oak Harbor Elementary School, the occupational and physical therapy equipment will be housed in the cafeteria to free up classroom space. It will be used when lunch isn’t in session.

And the Life Skills program at Broad View Elementary will move to Crescent Harbor Elementary.

In total, there were about 17 classroom moves, Gibbon said, and about five teachers volunteered to transfer.

While the federal intervention put school officials in a challenging position, it wasn’t the jam-packed scenario they feared might happen. If the transfer requests had been higher, the district would’ve needed to consider changing school boundaries or buying portable classrooms.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said there are typically about 250 transfer requests each year, and this year there were 360.

Along with allowing children to transfer schools, the district is also required to pay for their transportation. About 130 kids requested transport this fall.

Children will take their normal bus to Crescent Harbor or Olympic View, and a transfer bus will take them to their new school.

“They won’t necessarily be longer bus rides, but there will be a little earlier pick up and a little later drop off,” Gibbon said.

The school district is required to direct about $250,000 of its federal money to pay for free transportation and professional development.

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