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Elmsford Cracking Down on Out-of-District Students

ELMSFORD, N.Y. – Elmsford schools have given nearly two dozen students the boot this year after finding they did not live in the district, a school study shows.

Twenty-one students have been forced to transfer out of the Elmsford Union Free School District over the course of the 2011-2012 school year after an internal investigation showed they lived in places like Yonkers and White Plains, administrators said Wednesday during a board of education meeting.  Another four cases are still pending.

Jeffrey Olender, director of technology and registration, said the problem with out-of-town pupils has “bubbled to the surface” in recent months, a concern because taxpayers are left footing the bill.

“If students are here and they should not be because they do not actually reside in the limits of the district, they are actually being educated through taxpayer funds paid by people who live here,” Olender said.

Many board members and parents, who were presented with the numbers for the first time Wednesday, said they were surprised.

“I was floored by the numbers,” said board of education member Debra Lawrance. “I had no idea.”

In total, 50 students have been investigated during the course of the school year after the district received questions of their residency.

While 25 either transferred or their cases are still pending, 11 were found to have lived in Elmsford and 14 were found to have special circumstances that allowed them to stay – either they were homeless or involved in a split-custody situation.  Numbers from previous years were unavailable.

District investigations, however, didn’t find any particular patterns of where the students were coming from, Olender said, noting they found students who lived in White Plains, New York City, Yonkers, Tarrytown and Ossining.

Olender said he thinks the cause may be parents who once lived in the district moved out of Elmsford but left their children in the schools, not wanting to take them from their friends and classmates.

“I think parents try to keep those kids in those schools until they’re forced to switch,” he said. “It’s a natural tendency.”

On average, per pupil cost in the district’s 2011-2012 budget broke down to over $15,000 per student, statistics show.  But administrators said the departed students won’t make a dent in the cost to taxpayers.

The number of departed students is small, they said, and won’t be enough to reduce staff – where any savings would come from.

But school board President Matthew Evans said it wasn’t a money issue.

“This is a matter of principle,” he said.

On Wednesday, administrators said they will begin cracking down with new policies, including mandatory re-registration in certain grades and updated residency verification forms.  The board of education said it would not rule out hiring an outside firm to handle registration in an effort to close the loopholes that allowed out of district students in the school.

“We are tightening those things greatly,” Olender said.

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