Beaufort County schools to verify all students' addresses every year

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comApril 23, 2014 

The Beaufort County School District is strengthening its system to verify home addresses and ensure students are going to schools in their attendance zones, administrators said.

The effort, however, comes about three years after the district first vowed to do so.

"We want to ensure as much as possible that students are attending schools where their homes are zoned," chief student services officer Gregory McCord said. "I think we do a pretty good job of monitoring it in the county, but I can't say (out-of-zone attendance) doesn't take place."

The district created a policy in July 2011 that required students to re-establish proof of residency each school year. Previously, they did so only when first enrolling in the school district.

But it does not appear the policy change, made under the direction of then-superintendent Valerie Truesdale, continued after the first year. McCord said he does not remember annual verification being done during the nearly two years he has been with the district.

He said he didn't know why the process hasn't continued.

Superintendent Jeff Moss said Wednesday he was not sure how many students had to change schools because of the new effort.

"It's been a while since we've done this process, so it's probably going to be a little larger of a process this year," Moss said. "But it truly is a process we should employ every year."

The district will require proof of residency from students this year. Students will then fill out address verification forms in subsequent years, Moss said.

Most problems come from families in neighboring counties who falsify addresses so their children can attend Beaufort County schools, he said. Some families within the district will also do it so their children can attend a certain school, he said.

"I don't think there is gross negligence, but there is a percentage of those people who will take advantage of the system if they can," school board member Bill Payne said. "Nothing will ever be 100 percent, but hopefully we can cut down on the amount of folks not being honest."

Moss has said it's important to ensure that students attend their zoned schools as the district expands its academic choice programs. That will create more room for students who want to transfer to a specific program.

"We will do our part to make sure we inspect it on a more frequent basis, and that helps everyone to make sure they are where they should be," McCord said. "This is for the best interest of kids."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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