By Bob Skolnik
The Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education is considering changing its residency policy to allow students whose families are in the process of moving into the district to begin the school year in the district.
The school board will decide whether to allow a family that has a contract to buy a house in the district, but whose closing date is after the first day of school, to have their children start the school year at their new school before they have actually moved into the district.
At the school board's Sept. 5 committee of the whole meeting, Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye asked the school board if it wanted to consider changing its policy to allow more flexibility for these rare circumstances.
Ryan-Toye said some other school districts allow this and generally call the policy non-resident conditional enrollment.
District 96 policy requires students to physically reside in the district at the start of the school year to begin classes at a District 96 school. Public school students in Illinois generally have to live in the school district of the school they attend or pay tuition.
Ryan-Toye said that the idea for reconsidering the policy came from a few inquiries this summer. She said that some other districts allow a family to enroll their children in a school they will be attending before they actually move in.
To make sure the family does actually move into the district, typically families are required to put down a tuition deposit to protect the district if the family doesn't follow through on the move.
"The number of exceptions we're talking about is quite small," said Dan Hunt, the chairman of the board's policy committee.
Some members of the board expressed interest in looking into the idea, but school board President Jeff Miller said that he wasn't inclined to make a change.
"I like our present policy, because it's clear and simple," Miller said.
Board member Joel Marhoul said that any policy change would have be worded so that it could apply to renters as well to ensure that the district was not discriminating against renters.
Board member Rich Regan seemed skeptical of the changing the policy, but said that the idea is worth looking into.
"I think it is always good to explore sample policies to see if we're doing this the right way," Regan said.
A couple of other local school districts already show flexibility to families in this situation.
Both Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 and Brookfield-LaGrange Elementary School District 95 already allow children to start school there if the family has a contract on a house, but the closing doesn't take place until soon after the start of the school year.
They also offer some flexibility to a family that has already closed on a house but has not moved into the home by the start of the school year because they are renovating the home.
At RBHS, school officials require the family to complete an affidavit swearing to when they will actually move into the home and then bill the family for tuition for the time at RBHS before they actually move in.
If a site visit verifies that the family is living in the home by the time they say they will be, the tuition payment is then refunded.
"We hold the tuition money up front so that the onus is in on the parents to be forthright and make sure they meet the contract date or the rehab work that needs to be completed," Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said. "We've done that a couple times."
District 95 typically asks families to make a $500 deposit toward tuition, which is then refunded if the family does move into the home. Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said that the situation has only come up a couple times in his 10 years at the district.
At Komarek School, no exceptions for such cases are made to its residency policy. You must be actually living in the Komarek District to start school there.