After the high school district board formed a committee to examine the effects of a school choice policy last month, a group of about 30 parents submitted a letter on Sept. 12 indicating that they do not think the policy is causing overcrowding, and that it should remain in place.
Students entering the high school district from the feeder elementary districts can submit waiver requests by Feb. 15 during their sixth-grade year to attend a school outside their zone. Parents and teachers signed a separate joint letter to the board in June asking it to consider the possibility that the waiver policy could create overcrowding at North High School.
All four schools, however, were below their functional capacities last year, according to the district. Central had 994 students enrolled; its capacity is 1,906. Memorial had 841 students; its capacity is 1,831. North had 1,386; its capacity is 1,823. South had 1,283; its capacity is 2,064.
“The facts are the facts,” said a North parent who declined to be identified because she did not want her son to be outed as a waiver student. “Currently the schools aren’t overcrowded.” She waived her son out of Memorial, but declined to say why.
“The reason I exercise whatever decision I make is because I can,” she said.
Instead of revising or retiring the waiver policy, she said, the district should better examine the number of students who attend the schools illegally in order to curb overcrowding. A group that polices student residency in districts 13, 24 and the Central High School district found that 54 non-residents were attending the schools last year.
“I think everyone on both sides of this would agree,” the parent said, “they don’t want people in this district illegally.”
The board created a Citizens Advisory Committee on Aug. 29 to review enrollment data and alternatives to current school attendance zones, as they relate to the waiver policy. It comprises PTA members, civic association members and representatives of the Board of Education and the Valley Stream Teachers’ Association. As of press time, no District 30 parents had volunteered for the committee, according to the high school district’s board president, William Stris, who appointed Trustee John Maier to chair it.
Parent Maria Mantikas said that she waived her daughter into North High School so she could remain with her friends. Her daughter, whom she declined to name because she didn’t want her to be identified as a waiver student, was zoned to go to Central High School.
Mantikas also said that many of the concerns that parents brought to the board, such as a claim that a particular student was in a science class with 37 other students, have arisen because the district needs to accommodate every student’s schedule.
A math teacher at Lynbrook High School, Mantikas said that her classes vary in size. She said that because students have to take electives such as chorus and band at a certain time, a science class at that time would have fewer students and science classes at other times would have more students.
She also said that there are alternatives for students in an overcrowded school. “If their issue is overcrowding,” Mantikas said, “they can waive to a less crowded school.”
Superintendent Bill Heidenreich told concerned parents at a Sept. 12 board meeting that the committee would examine the reasons a child might waive into a school, including the elementary school zoning and the different programs offered at each high school. About 15 parents who signed the petition attended the meeting wearing black in solidarity.
“I believe the Board of Education, in its due diligence, has established a process to look at the issue in a diligent manner,” Heidenreich said.
The committee is set to meet on Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at the high school district’s offices, at 1 Kent Road in Valley Stream. The meeting will be open to the public, but there will be no public comment portion.
Nick Ciccone contributed to this story.