Students will be allowed to transfer next year to 10 Beaufort County schools that offer programs emphasizing the arts or science; however, students must qualify for acceptance to magnet programs at three of those schools.
The Beaufort County Board of Education voted 8-0 at its work session Friday to reopen transfers to programs in seven schools from next school year through 2015:
Board members Michael Rivers, Steven Morello and Wayne Carbiener were absent.
Programmatic transfers had been closed for the 2011-12 school year amid concerns families were picking and choosing which schools they wanted to go to regardless of their attendance zone.
The district received more than 1,500 transfer requests for the 2010-11 school year and approved nearly 95 percent.
More than 500 were for program choices.
District staff recommended that programmatic transfers be allowed at those schools because they are underenrolled. The district's goal, Superintendent Valerie Truesdale said, is to bring enrollment to about 75 to 89 percent of the building's capacity.
The board's conversation mainly centered on two concerns: That families use programmatic transfers to cherry-pick schools and that test scores at the schools transfer students leave will drop.
Truesdale said staff will closely monitor transfers into the programs to ensure neither happens.
The board also approved by an 8-0 vote a motion that called for district staff to develop more specific criteria for admission to the district's magnet programs -- the Advanced Math, Engineering and Science academies at Beaufort and Pritchardville elementary schools, the Montessori program at Beaufort Elementary, and the technical-college program at Whale Branch Early College High School.
Students will have to meet academic and behavioral expectations to continue in those programs. Parents also will be required to be involved in the school if their child transfers into one of those programs.
General transfer options, which aren't related to program differences, will continue to be available. The district allows students to transfer for health reasons, for instance, or for students assigned to schools where their race is the majority to attend schools where their race is in the minority.
Transfer applications are typically due in early March, Truesdale said. No requests have been submitted for next school year.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.