With the district facing budget constraints and potential class size increases, Lakeland officials are cracking down on students currently enrolled who reside outside the district boundaries.
“We don’t want anyone sitting in our chairs that are not children of parents residing in the district,” Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services Mary Ellen Herzog told the Board of Education. “This is a district if you live here there’s no stone that we won’t un-turn for your child to be successful. If you don’t live here, we will find you.”
A few years ago, Herzog said the district identified 28 students who were wrongfully attending district schools. Since September, nine students were discovered and enrolled in districts where they live, and nine additional letters have been sent to parents suspected of not being legal Lakeland residents.
Herzog explained many instances involve families who are renters and their leases expire, requiring them to relocate. She noted the residency requirement doesn’t apply to the estimated 42 students who are homeless and living in shelters or with family and friends.
Once identified, families are given two weeks to show proof of residency in the district. Herzog and other officials are meeting with principals in every school to examine the records of students.
“We’re taking a critical hard look. We’re reenergized,” Herzog said. “We’ve been much tighter in allowing you in, in terms of proving residency.”
Board Vice President Carol Ann Dobson remarked the district wasn’t going out of its way to punish anyone.
“For what it costs to educate a student you have to have it for the residents who pay taxes,” she said.