OROVILLE – At the Monday, March 30 meeting of the Oroville School Board a question was raised about the large number of students living in Oroville’s district and attending the Tonasket schools.
“At the meeting, Phil Barker made a presentation to the board stating that
60 plus students have left our schools to enroll in Tonasket. It appeared that Mr. Barker was under the impression that those 60 students have departed this year for educational reasons,” said Ernie Bartelson, superintendent of the Oroville School District.
Bartelson doesn’t disagree with the number, but wants those living in the Oroville School District to understand the circumstances behind it.
“Mr. Barker is correct with his number, 60 Oroville students are attending the Tonasket Schools. However, it’s very important to know the circumstances of those students,” said the superintendent.
To begin with two of the students are in preschool and not required to attend school and won’t be counted for purposes of the discussion, said Bartelson.
“Of the 58 students, 30 have never attended Oroville Schools. These students cannot be counted as ‘lost’ because they have never been enrolled in Oroville. Some are southern border students living much closer to Tonasket and some are parent preference starting in kindergarten,” he said.
Of the remaining 28 students, eight attend Tonasket’s Alternative or Outreach (home school) program. Tonasket has nine on their roles, but one student has never attended in Oroville so is counted in the 30 who have never attended school in Oroville. Two students withdrew to attend a local Christian School and then CHOICE’d to Tonasket from that school, two withdrew to go to New Mexico and CHOICE’d to Tonasket upon their return and two move back and forth between Oroville, Tonasket, home school, the Christian School and the Alternative/Outreach program, according to Bartelson.
“Of the remaining 14 students, eight indicated a financial, educational safety or health condition could reasonably be improved at Tonasket, three indicated it was closer to parent’s work or child care, one indicated problems with teachers and two wanted programs Oroville does not offer,” said the superintendent.
As a general statement, according to Bartelson, most of the students who attend school in Tonasket are doing so due to geography, family preference or alternative programs.
“The question most often asked is “why do you permit students to leave?’ The answer is that Washington State allows students to attend other schools for about any reason whether it be educational, social, safety, health or accessibility,” he said.
Bartelson goes on to explain that the transfer of students is called the CHOICE Program and schools are very limited in their reasons for denying a CHOICE request. Schools can deny a request for transfer only if they can prove that the resident school can accommodate the student in a more effective manner than the receiving school.
“Since proving that the student is better off in the resident district when parents and students want to transfer is very difficult and most districts do not challenge the transfer. It truly is legislation for parents rather than for schools,” he said.
“It is interesting to note that six Tonasket students have CHOICE’d to Oroville and are currently enrolled in our regular academic programs on a full time basis (we are still waiting for transfer requests for three additional students). Although we cannot release names, the numbers cited and the reasons for their transfer is documented in both school districts.”