Merritt: School Choice program could end

PARKERSBURG – County school officials are making plans to eliminate the federal School Choice program in the event the state is granted a waiver.

Almost a year ago the state education department filed a waiver with the federal government with regard to No Child Left Behind legislation. County school officials expect the waiver will be granted and are making plans to adapt.

John Merritt, director of federal programs for Wood County Schools, said if the waiver is approved there will be several changes that take place with regard to the School Choice program and supplemental educational services.

Students enrolled in another school as a result of the School Choice program will remain in those schools.

“But what does change is the transportation will no longer be provided,” Merritt said. “Students can stay there, but they will have to find their own transportation.”

Merritt also said if a Title I school did not make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) for two consecutive years students are offered School Choice. If the school fails to make AYP for three consecutive years the school system offers School Choice and supplemental education services, such as tutoring.

“Under the waiver, both of these programs will end,” Merritt said.

Approximately 50 students in the county school system utilize the federal School Choice program, Merritt said.

Merritt said school officials will send out letters to those affected by the changes, but those letters won’t go out until the state’s waiver is approved. He suspects that will happen this spring.

Liza Cordeiro, spokeswoman for the state department of education, said they have received no final word on the waiver request.

“It would be premature to make a comment,” she said.

Cordeiro said there have been a number of recent conversations back and forth with federal officials regarding the waiver request. Merritt said most states that have submitted waivers have been approved.

“I’m not aware of any state that has not received approval,” he said.

The county’s School Choice program will remain in effect; allowing students to transfer to another institution provided both school principals agree to the change, Merritt said.

Under the county program students can only transfer if there is room.

“If the grades fill up the following year, they can be sent back to their home school,” he said.