Nearly 10 percent of Puyallup School District students have obtained waivers to move to different schools within the district this academic year.
Meanwhile, Puyallup schools as a whole have seen a net loss of 300 students when those transferring into district schools are subtracted from those transferring out of the district. That doesn’t include those who have physically moved in or out of the Puyallup area.
The reasons for the internal waivers vary, from day care issues to magnet programs drawing students to one school or another, said Casey Cox, an assistant superintendent for the district.
He reported the waiver numbers to the School Board last week, giving a fairly unusual public glimpse of the movement.
The numbers show the district is flexible and gives parents the “choice to move (their child) to the school that fits their educational needs,” Cox said.
They also show that some schools are more affected than others. Carson and Zeiger elementary schools, Kalles Junior High and Puyallup High School all saw relatively high numbers of students transferring in. The elementary schools are close to day care options, and Kalles and Puyallup High both have magnet programs, Cox said.
In all, about 1,200 elementary school students received waivers, with the rest of the internal waivers split between junior high and high school.
The district has about 21,370 students total; it’s the second-largest district in Pierce County, behind Tacoma Public Schools.
To get a waiver, students must meet certain criteria, from a special hardship to placement in a magnet program.
School enrollment also is a factor; Cox said the district won’t grant a waiver if a school or grade level is at capacity.
School Board members didn’t take any action related to the waiver numbers during their meeting Oct. 22. Some said they want the district to continue tracking and reporting the figures.
“It becomes a baseline that we can start to measure a lot of things against,” board member Chris Ihrig said after the session.
Along with the internal movement to start the 2012-13 school year, the district has seen 784 students living outside its boundaries obtain waivers to transfer in this year. Schools on the edges of the district, such as Fruitland Elementary near the Franklin Pierce school district, seemed to get higher numbers, Cox said.
The district also has lost 1,084 students living within its borders to outside districts or programs – a total of 610 elementary students, 223 junior high students and 251 high-schoolers, Cox reported.
Some of the largest blocks went to the nearby districts of Sumner and Fife or to online schools.
School districts carefully monitor transfers to other districts because the state provides funding on a per-student basis. Puyallup officials peg that number at around $5,000 per student.
Cox said officials assume the reasons are similar to those that prompt internal transfers, but the district hasn’t formally been asking. That’s changing; the district now will ask families if they’re willing to share their reasons for leaving.
Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058
Puyallup School District waiver numbers
• 2,067 students have moved within the Puyallup School District this year using internal waivers.
• 784 students who live in other districts have transferred into Puyallup this year.
• 1,084 district students have opted out for other districts or programs this year.
• That equals a net loss of 300 students, which amounts to roughly $1.5 million in state funding.