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Roswell’s charter school plans enrollment policy change

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[Note: This post has been updated to correct the spelling of a council member’s name and title.]

The Sidney Gutierrez Middle School Governing Council is planning to change its enrollment policies so that siblings of graduates would no longer be given priority for admission.

Joe Andreis, principal of Sidney Gutierrez Middle School. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Council Vice President Yasine Armstrong and member Mike Taylor voiced a desire to change the policy at the council’s Monday meeting.

“I think we need to stick with students who are currently enrolled in the school or accepted,” said Taylor.

Formed about 17 years ago, the city’s only charter school — and the only local school to receive an “A” ranking from the New Mexico Public Education Department for the past seven years — is now a popular school choice, routinely having more students seeking admission each year than the school has open slots.

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By its charter, the middle school is limited to 66 students, ideally 22 for each grade, and can only accept more under rare circumstances and with the approval of the Roswell Independent School District, which is the charter authorizer.

Complying with state law, the school has been giving first priority for open slots to the siblings of students. Then, as demand grew, it implemented a lottery system to fill any remaining openings for each grade.

But the council discussed at its Monday meeting changing its enrollment policy to delete the priority for siblings of graduates — which the school itself had chosen to give in its early years, to develop loyalty among families and ensure future enrollment. The council had discussed that possibility last year as well.

As explained by Principal Joe Andreis, New Mexico statutes require the charter to give preference to siblings of current students or admitted students.

The problem that exists now, with continuing to give preference to the siblings of graduates as well, is the possibility that in the near future there would be no available slots for non-sibling applicants, given that the graduate pool has grown each year. The school already has adopted a narrow definition of siblings, to include only blood relatives or children legally adopted by the same parents.

“We are trying to do two things,” said Andreis. “We are trying to match the state statute and we are trying to eliminate a future of not having an open enrollment.”

Council members decided Monday to make suggestions for an amended policy to be reviewed by the school’s lawyer. Then they intend to review the revised policy at December and January meetings, with the goal of having a revised enrollment policy in effect by January 2019.

“We want to make sure that this has been board-approved prior to the admission period,” said Andreis.

The school has set the lottery selection day for the 2019-2010 academic year for April 8. At this time, applications are due to be accepted Jan. 14-Jan. 29.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.