At our last board meeting, I moved to prohibit next year’s ninth-graders from transferring into Liberty High from outside Liberty’s attendance area, and the motion passed. Here are my reasons for the motion:
First, ninth-grade transfers will worsen the projected overcrowding at Liberty. When Liberty opens, it will have a capacity of 1000 seats, and our enrollment projections show that, even without any voluntary transfers, its enrollment will be over 1000 as of 2019-20:
By contrast, Liberty in its first two years (2017-18 and 2018-19) is likely to be underfilled, because students from the classes of 2018 and 2019 are allowed to finish up at West High if they choose to.
As a result, I was not against allowing juniors and seniors to transfer into Liberty next year, since they will help fill the building in its initial years and will be gone before the building becomes overcrowded. But I had concerns about allowing freshmen and sophomores to transfer in next year, because they will still be there when the enrollment exceeds the building’s capacity. By the time next year’s freshmen graduate, Liberty is projected to be already 12% over capacity (while we anticipate plenty of space available at West High). Any transfers we allow will simply make that number worse.
Second, the board needs to consider this issue in light of its decision assign the Kirkwood area to the Liberty High zone. The board chose to require students in the Kirkwood area, which has a relatively high proportion of students from low-income households, to attend Liberty, in order to promote socioeconomic balance among the secondary schools. I voted against that decision, because I was concerned that Kirkwood-area students would be made worse off by having to attend schools that are farther away and more difficult to get to and from. But now that they’re assigned to Liberty, the least we can do is not overcrowd the building.
Moreover, there is a fairness issue. Many Kirkwood-area students are effectively required to attend Liberty whether they want to or not. Freshman and sophomores are ineligible to transfer out of Liberty in 2017-18, and even if transfers were available, students must provide their own transportation, which lower-income families are less likely to have the means to do. Again, the board majority justified the Kirkwood decision on the grounds that it would promote socioeconomic balance and reduce overcrowding. So how could the board then allow better-off families—those with the means to provide their own transportation—to transfer into Liberty, even when it would undermine socioeconomic balance and worsen overcrowding? If we’re willing to say “no” to low-income families, we need to be willing to say “no” to better-off families too.
At the meeting, I could not get a clear sense of how the administration planned to handle transfer requests into Liberty, so I moved to close Liberty High to transfers from ninth graders (except for those who meet hardship criteria) next year. The motion passed, 4-3. (Board members Hemingway, Roesler, Roetlin, and I voted yes; Directors DeLoach, Kirschling, and Lynch voted no.)
Liberty is slated to receive a 500-seat addition as of 2022-23 (a year after next year’s freshmen will graduate). As we get closer to that date, become more certain of the funding for the addition, and have a better sense of how much growth to expect in the Liberty zone, it will make sense for the board to revisit the transfer issue.
Previous posts here.