Central officials cracking down on school ‘zone jumpers’

The Central School Board wants to make it much harder for people who live outside the school district to send their children to Central schools illegally.

The School Board’s policy committee voted Wednesday to send a new “evidence of domicile” policy to the full board for consideration.

It is to be introduced at the board’s meeting Monday and will come up for final approval at a meeting on March 24.

Under the new policy, the parents of new students in the school system who own their homes will have to produce a certifed copy of documents recorded with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office showing ownership of the home or a property tax bill or homestead exemption for the most recent tax year.

Those parents also will have to provide the previous two months of bills for electricity and one of either the gas or water/garbage bill. The parent will also have to provide their current state driver’s license or a state-issued identification.

Parents of new students in the school system who rent their homes will have to provide a copy of the lease agreement for one year and if the lease expires before the end of the school year, additional documentation showing proof of residence will be required.

Parents who rent also will have to re-register at the beginning of each school year and provide two months of electricity bills and one gas or water/garbage bill if that information is not in the lease agreement.

Renters also will have to provide a current state driver’s license or state-issued identification.

The new paperwork requirements have been discussed since the middle of 2013 in an effort to stop children who live outside of the district from attending Central schools.

A Central administrator said in 2012 the school district catches about 80 “zone jumpers” each year, some who go as far as to rent apartments just so their children qualify to attend Central schools.

School staff also will have to investigate cases in which parents of new students are neither homeowners nor renters, but share living space with other families, also known as doubling up.

School staff will investigate to determine if the parent actually has a home elsewhere and where the child is living in the Central residence Monday through Friday.

For Central students who are enrolled in the system but have to change schools because they have advanced to another grade, parents who own their homes and those who rent will have to provide similar information — property tax bills or updated lease agreements — to school officials as part of the enrollment process.

School Board member Willard Easley said Wednesday that there’s no way they will be able to catch everyone who tries to enter the school illegally.

“If we do anything we will have complaints. If we don’t do anything we’re going to have complaints,” Easley said.

The changes would take effect in the 2014-15 school year.