A packed house of more than 100 residents awaited the Bartlett school board’s vote Feb. 27 on its non-resident student policy.
The board voted unanimously to approve the policy that sets priorities allowing students outside the Bartlett City School District to attend Bartlett schools, if space is available.
The meeting kicked off with a word from Bartlett mayor Keith McDonald, who cautioned the public about negativity evident recently in social media. He reminded all that the pending municipal schools’ lawsuit has not yet gotten the judge’s approval, and squabbling could damage their case if it gives the false impression that Bartlett is so exclusive it wouldn’t consider offering non-resident students the open school seats. He believes the board’s policy sets good parameters for considering non-resident students.
“When you talk about how they have good attendance records and satisfactory academic and discipline records, those are children that are going to be coming to get a good education, whose parents care about their education just like our children and we care about our children’s education. They will not be disrupting the children, and we should not take the attitude otherwise. If we do, we could lose this whole thing. It’s not too late. It never will be.”
He cautioned, “We as a community must always be aware of what we say and how we say it.”
Supt. David Stephens said the projected number of students is down about 1,411 students, meaning that three local schools in particular will be drastically underused. It takes about $1 million to open and operate a building, with administrative and maintenance costs. (See pg. 53 of the school district’s updated feasibility study, created by Southern Educational Strategies, online.)
Unused facilities go back to Shelby County, he said. Charter schools are coming into the picture. If you have underutilized space, it has to be reported back to the state, and charters could obtain that space. He said that he expects Bartlett students to need every seat in the buildings within the next three years as Bartlett and its school system grow. For now, it would be hard to say no to students newly classified as non-residents if the space is available, particularly if the students have been attending Bartlett schools in the past.
Multiple citizens spoke in favor of a non-resident student policy. Bartlett Elementary employee Sandra Winfield said, “Over half of my school is non-resident. And we want every one of those students back.”
Mick Wright, who worked on the referendum to form Bartlett’s school district, said, “We’ve heard recently from Bartlett parents who understandably want their children’s needs to come first, and who rightly believe our entire community will benefit if families are drawn to Bartlett for its excellent school system. I simply want to remind them we anticipated an inclusive policy from the beginning.”
Other parents spoke on behalf of honors-student children who need the advanced classes at Bartlett High School or who want the positive atmosphere of Bartlett schools and are willing to pay tuition.
The concise one-page attendance policy for non-resident students is available online.
In part, it states that non-resident students will be considered for attendance in Bartlett City Schools based on the following priorities (assuming space is available after Bartlett students are placed):
- Priority 1: Students of full time employees of Bartlett City Schools.
- Priority 2: Students currently enrolled in one of the 11 Bartlett schools.
- Priority 3: Students whose siblings currently attend one of the 11 Bartlett schools.
- Priority 4: Students of full time employees of the City of Bartlett.
- Priority 5: All other students residing outside the municipal boundaries of Bartlett.
Written by Carolyn Bahm, Bartlett Express editor. Contact her at email@example.com or (901) 433-9138.