Franklin, PPS Make Moves to Address Overcrowding

A letter sent to a former Franklin student outlining the procedure that led to their unenrollment from the school. The student now attends a different PPS high school.

Only eight years ago, there were just over 1,000 students attending Franklin. Today, the school houses roughly 1,750 kids. With a rapid increase in the number of students coming to the school, the district is taking measures to guarantee that all who are enrolled are supposed to be attending Franklin. The school can only hold so many students, and administration has to ensure that they are first and foremost providing services for those who are in the Franklin boundaries or who have special circumstances that allow them to attend.

Address verification is one such process that has been used to ensure the validity of some students’ enrollment. PPS Director of Enrollment Planning Judith Brennan usually becomes involved in this process when a school believes a student may not actually live in their district, or when a student appeals to stay at a school when they may have an address in a different school district or PPS neighborhood.

One important thing to note before going into the topic of address verification, says Brennan, is that once a student is properly enrolled at a school, they have the right to stay there until the highest grade. This is why incoming ninth graders are now required to provide proof of residency when forecasting for next year. “We want to make sure when you enter, you’re entering at the correct school for your address,” notes Brennan.

A student’s residency can come into question when their school receives returned mail or reports of potential inaccuracies in the address that is reported in the student’s records. When this occurs, Enrollment and Transfer looks into the student’s living situation and tries to gather information to definitively answer the question of whether they really should be attending their current school. “If a family doesn’t establish residency at the beginning of the year, in fact, if instead we determine, after a lot of investigation, that they are indeed residents of another school, we have the right to unenroll them,” says Brennan. This means that the student does not have the right to stay at the school until the highest grade because they were never actually rightfully enrolled.

This process was carried out this year when one former Franklin student was investigated by PPS after the school received an indication that their address may not have been valid (see letter above). The letter mentioned that a PPS official visited the address that the student’s family provided and found that the student did not live at said residence. It also said that the district found another address in a different PPS high school boundary that the student lived at, and said the student could finish out their semester at Franklin, but then was to be moved to their neighborhood school. The letter did not, however, specify how PPS discovered this secondary address. “Unfortunately,” says Brennan, “there are families who believe that a certain school is in their best interest, and if they can’t get a transfer into that school through other means, then they might use false addresses to do so.”

Brennan admits that this process is difficult. “This is not one of the most pleasant parts of the work that we do in Enrollment and Transfer,” she says. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and it is hard to find balance between being compassionate and prioritizing students within the Franklin boundary, but the goal is to catch cases like these early so that students can have as consistent of a schooling experience as possible. “We want to do [our work] well because we’ve been asked to do it for the district,” explains Brennan.

Though this process does help alleviate some of the overcrowding at Franklin, the discussion of student population goes well beyond address verification. The capacity of the Franklin building is technically 1,700, but, says Franklin Principal Juanita Valder, this number is based on the number of students per class, so it does change depending on what classes students forecast for. Additionally, more and more people are moving to areas within the Franklin boundaries as new improvements to neighborhoods are made. Estimates put the student enrollment numbers at 1,800 to 1,850 for the 2018-19 school year, which means that there is potential for new hires and more movement by teachers between different classrooms. Says Valder, “we’re going to be really tight, but we should fit.”

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