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Fredericksburg city councilman wants meeting with School Board to discuss public school enrollment, residency requirements
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By KELLY HANNON
A Fredericksburg City Council member is calling for greater scrutiny of documents proving city residency when new students enroll in public schools.
Councilman Fred Howe said a parent contacted him about an influx of several hundred new students at the beginning of the school year in Fredericksburg.
Between last September and this September, enrollment in city schools increased by 238 students.
Howe wants to meet with the Fredericksburg School Board to discuss where the students are from, since there hasn't been a lot of new construction in the city, he said.
"Are they refugees? Are they illegal immigrants? Aliens? Are they transferees? Where do they come from?" Howe asked. "I'm just trying to get the answers."
In addition, Howe said he'd like to understand the process used to confirm that a student is a city resident. He said rental leases and utility bills can be fraudulently created, and he'd prefer to see the district use only government-issued IDs for address verification.
Howe raised those questions in e-mails circulated among City Council members, and as a guest on a local radio program last week.
Fredericksburg Schools Superintendent David Melton attributed the enrollment increase this fall to economic factors, such as the high foreclosure and unemployment rates.
Rental properties make up the majority of residences in the city. Families may have moved into those properties from surrounding counties, Melton said.
Fredericksburg School Board Chairwoman Pat Green also cited rental properties as a contributor to enrollment growth. "You're seeing a lot of families choosing to rent instead of buy," Green said.
Or some families may have moved in with their parents or other family members living in the city, Melton said.
Also, some families are choosing to enroll their children in public school this year instead of private school, he said.
As for proof of residency, the school district requests a driver's license, a home contract, a rental lease, a water bill or another utility bill.
FOLLOWING LETTER OF LAW
Public schools cannot deny a student access to public education based on immigration status. A 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plyler v. Doe, said that school divisions cannot deny an education to school-age children living in a jurisdiction because they do not hold U.S. citizenship or a student visa.