Wednesday, September 12, 2012

School system launches attendance audit at North Point

Charles County Public Schools is launching an attendance audit at North Point High School to ensure students enrolled there live in the North Point attendance zone or in Charles County if they are in a Science, Technology and Industry (STI) program. While the school system routinely investigates questionable attendance issues, this is the first concentrated effort to conduct a formal audit.

Superintendent James E. Richmond said overcrowding strains building capacity in terms of facility and staffing levels, and enrollment at North Point has steadily risen to 2,252 students, which is hundreds more students than the school was designed to handle.

"Despite overcrowding, North Point is managing the challenges and staff continues to provide the students there with quality instructional programs and opportunities. However, as we begin a redistricting process at the high school level, we need to first make sure we are confirming that students in our schools are Charles County residents and that they are attending the proper school," Richmond said.

This is a residency verification pilot program and analysis, and once the North Point student audit is complete, staff could look at other schools, Richmond said.

North Point, which serves as the STI center for Charles County Public Schools, is a comprehensive high school. A designated number of students at the school come from across Charles County and apply for and are accepted in STI programs. The remainder of the student population is zoned to attend North Point. The audit is focusing on the attendance zone population; however, Richmond said staff is looking to ensure students in the STI programs are county residents.
The formal audit supplements daily efforts by schools and the Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) student services department to monitor enrollment numbers and to ensure children are enrolled at the schools they are zoned to attend. During the last two school years, more than 60 out-of-zone students have been removed from North Point following residency investigations. Additionally, according to Patricia Vaira, director of student services, many more students are stopped from enrolling because the school system is taking a closer look at leases and residency verification during the registration process.
A letter from Richmond is going home to North Point parents on Sept. 12 alerting them to the audit and asking for cooperation.
The school system's audit to confirm students' residency status includes, but is not limited to:

  • A complete review of all residency documents, including lease agreements and statements of residency;
  • Unscheduled home visits to confirm the accuracy of residency documents; and
  • A review of publicly available information regarding property ownership.
Parents of students enrolled at North Point under false information can withdrawal their child by Sept. 19 with no questions asked. "I hope parents will respond before we need to take action," Richmond said.
"I heard the complaints during the elementary and middle school redistricting that people feel there are students throughout the county, but particularly on the North Point campus, who are not zoned to attend these schools and are causing overcrowding. I felt we needed to investigate thoroughly those claims," Richmond said.
Students found to be attending the wrong school will be sent to their zoned school or removed from the school system if they are not a resident. Nonresidents will be charged tuition, retroactively, for the time they attended school here. County students attending a school under false information will be ineligible to participate in athletics. "Families providing inaccurate residency information not only overcrowd our schools, but they also put our athletic programs at risk. If we find an out-of-zone student playing on one of our teams, the entire team suffers the consequence for this ineligible player through forfeited games," Richmond said.

Richmond asks anyone with knowledge of a family that is attending school who does not reside in the school's attendance zone to contact the school or anonymously call the school system's fraud hotline at 301-302-8305.

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