Central tightens residency requirements for students

The Central School Board voted unanimously Monday to tighten its residency rules for students, including a new requirement that prior to the start of every school year, families who rent will have to present updated information to prove their leases are still valid.

“They get a lease to enroll in the system, and there’s no follow-up process,” Superintendent Michael Faulk said. “We had to come up with some way to where we can check from year to year.”

The board shelved or removed provisions that raised concerns from residents and the American Civil Liberties Union.

That included requiring incoming families to provide their latest income tax returns prior to enrolling. The new policy also jettisons the option of using a voter registration card as proof of residency; last fall, the board briefly considered making that mandatory.

Instead, parents or guardians will have to present a driver’s license or state-issued identification. Faulk said some families found the income tax return requirement intrusive. He said a voter’s registration card was unworkable because many people don’t register to vote; using a driver’s license or state-issued identification is a better tool to determine the residency of new enrollees.

The new “evidence of domicile” policy, which has been in development for months, has a few new wrinkles.

It mandates that school staff investigate cases where parents of new students are neither homeowners nor renters, but share living space with other families, also known as doubling up.

If a parent is shown to actually have a home elsewhere, then their children will be dropped from the rolls of Central schools. The new policy goes into effect in advance of the 2014-15 school year.

The paperwork requirements are an effort to stop children who live outside of the district from attending Central schools, a problem in this growing suburban school district, which has more than 4,000 students.

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

During the months of debate, the board considered and later dropped other ideas, including requiring parents have either homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. The board also dropped a requirement that all renters show proof of cancellation of homestead exemption to prove they don’t have that exemption on property outside of Central.

The new policy allows only full-time employees the ability to send their children to Central’s five schools, even if they live outside of the city.

The policy also makes clear that children of employees who live out of the district could be dropped from the rolls if they exhibit “disruptive behavior” or display discipline or attendance problems.

One idea, later dropped, was to limit this privilege further, only to “certified” employees, such as educators, a move that would have excluded children of support workers.