Board members ponder sibling exemption

Jennifer Garrido

Since West Shore opened in 1998, the sibling preference clause has allowed a student of the same residence to attend the same school as an older sibling, given that they meet the academic requirements.

During recent school board meetings, the subject of eliminating the sibling clause has been brought up, and the discussion has fueled confusion and alarmed parents who are expecting to have an automatic place for their child.

“After many complaints of the process being ‘unfair due to sibling preference’, and ‘so many slots taken by siblings first’, the board asked the district to begin tracking data on choice schools,” School Board Member Karen Henderson said. “The district has been collecting the information and will present it to the board in the future with a recommendation. The board will then make a decision based on the information, the recommendation and comments from the public.”

According to Board Chairman Dr. Barbara Murray, a report will probably be made to the board this summer. The board should serve the “entire community” and “provide opportunity for each and every student.”

Though no decision is being made at the time, many parents with students enrolled under the sibling clause are highly against the dissolving of the clause because they say the preference is beneficial to the school’s environment and student body.

“If multiple students from the same family attend the same school, parents can be more dedicated to that one school both financially and with their volunteerism,” School Board Member Andy Ziegler said. “This is a benefit to the families and to the school. Parents with students at multiple schools have a hard time being dedicated to any of those schools.”

On the other perspective, though, many citizens disagree with the sibling clause, saying that it does not give every child an equal chance.

“I am undecided at the movement because there are good points on both sides of the issue,” Ziegler said. “Unarguably, as the number of siblings who automatically get accepted increases, the number of available positions for non- sibling applicants goes down. Is that fair to non-sibling applicants?”

Looking from outside of the choice schools, some say that the main reason why some support the sibling clause is because they have multiple students enrolled together.

“How do the majority of families feel about this? Is it only those that have siblings bound for a choice school who care because they have something to lose? Or do even those who are not interested in a choice school even have an opinion?” Ziegler said. “For the most part, those who support sibling preference, as expected, are those already attending choice schools. Those against sibling preference are most everyone else.”

According to Ziegler, Board will continue to assess the sibling situation.

“Attending a school of choice is clearly just that, a choice. Another important question is whether the board is responsible for the choices families make,” he said. “Because they choose a specific educational path for a child, is it the board’s responsibility to eliminate all the inconveniences associated with that choice? Or is it the responsibility of those who make the choice to determine if this choice works for them without inconvenience?”

By Tania Martin