Sec. 126-79-9 - Enrollment, Recruitment, and Retention

§ 126-79-9. Enrollment, Recruitment, and Retention

9.1. Purpose.

9.1.a. To fulfill the legislative intent of W. Va. Code § 18-5G-1 et seq., charter schools must remain an open and reasonable option to all students, except as identified in W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(6) in the case of charter schools with an educational mission focused on serving students with special needs. Efforts to recruit, enroll, and retain students must align with this objective.

9.1.b. Students must have the ability to transfer between charter and non-charter public schools without impairing their ability to graduate high school on time. To this end, authorizers and governing boards are responsible for working collaboratively to translate student credits between the two schools and ensuring transferring students and parents understand what coursework will be required to graduate at the receiving school, be it a charter or non-charter public school. The determination of grade levels for transferring students shall be based on what is age and educationally appropriate.

9.1.c. The authorizer and governing board must agree to and include in the charter contract provisions, consistent with the requirements of this section, relating to a charter school's primary recruitment area, preferences to be used in a lottery, enrollment processes and timelines, and student transfer processes.

9.2. Recruitment and Retention.

9.2.a. Primary Recruitment Area.

9.2.a.1. Charter school applications must include a defined primary recruitment area. The primary recruitment area shall be based, pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11, on the charter school's estimated facility and program capacity. The primary recruitment area for a charter school may include territory from more than one county. When the primary recruitment area includes territory from more than one county, pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-2(2), the county boards with concurrent jurisdiction over such territories must work together as the authorizer, subject to the following provisions:

9.2.a.1.A. When two or more county boards of education act together as authorizer, they collectively hold all the roles and responsibilities of an authorizer outlines in this policy, as well as state and federal law.

9.2.a.1.B. When two or more county boards of education act together as authorizer, they may form a cooperating county charter authorizing board that consists of a subset of board members from cooperating county boards. The cooperating county charter authorizing board shall not have fewer than five members and shall not have fewer than two members from each individual county board. The cooperating county charter authorizing board shall act as authorizer, with all according roles and responsibilities, for all matters except those relating to charter school application approvals and charter contract renewals. For these decisions, the individual county boards of education must approve applications or renewal applications, though charter schools may submit a single set of materials.

9.2.a.2. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11, the primary recruitment area of a charter school is a geographic area within which students who reside in the primary recruitment area may receive preference for enrollment in the charter school as outlined in subsection 9.2.b. of this policy.

9.2.a.3. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(4), the primary recruitment area is defined in the charter contract based on the initial proposed primary recruitment area outlined in the application as required by W. Va. Code § 18-5G-8(b)(7).

9.2.a.3.A. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(5), the primary recruitment area is open to annual revision based on the facility and program capacity of the charter school. The determination of said capacity is made by the governing board of the charter school in conjunction with its authorizer. The capacity determination shall define capacity by school, grade level, and/or special need preference category to the extent necessary to make it clear and transparent the number of enrollment slots available to a prospective student interested in a particular charter school.

9.2.a.3.B. The governing board and authorizer shall consider how any changes to the primary recruitment area will impact the ability of the charter school to execute its educational mission, provide required services to students, and ensure safe facilities. Changes in primary recruitment area must be made and agreed upon by the governing board of the charter school and its authorizer no later than January 1 of the year in which the change shall go into effect.

9.2.a.3.C. In determining the primary recruitment area, the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer shall consider the potential impact of the primary recruitment area on separation along the lines of student characteristics including, but not limited to, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or prior academic achievement.

9.2.a.4. Notwithstanding the defined primary recruitment area included in a charter contract, if more than one-third of the students enrolled at the charter school are from a single county outside the jurisdiction of the authorizing county board of education, the county board of education with jurisdiction over such county shall be given the option to join as an authorizer of the charter school. If a county board does decide to join as an authorizer, the charter contract shall be modified to include the county board of education as a party and to otherwise update as necessary to make clear each party's duties and responsibilities.

9.2.b. Establishment of Enrollment Preferences.

9.2.b.1. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(9), a conversion charter school shall guarantee enrollment to all students who previously enrolled in the non-charter public school and shall adopt and maintain a policy that gives enrollment preference to students who reside within the attendance zone as established prior to the conversion of the school. Enrollment beyond guaranteed enrollment shall follow the enrollment process for all charter schools outlined below, subject to the above attendance area preference and other preferences in the charter contract.

9.2.b.2. The governing board of a charter school and its authorizer(s) shall agree to the specific preferences and the order of preferences in the charter contract.

9.2.b.3. A preference for students enrolled in the charter school in the previous school year must be included in the charter contract to provide educational stability for these students.

9.2.b.4. A preference for children who reside within the primary recruitment area must be included in the charter contract in line with the intent of W. Va. Code § 18-5G-1 et seq. to expand the educational options available to students and families under the jurisdiction of the authorizer(s).

9.2.b.5. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(7), charter schools must establish enrollment preferences for:

9.2.b.5.A. Students enrolled in the charter school the previous school year; and

9.2.b.5.B. Children who reside within the school's primary recruitment area.

9.2.b.6. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(7), charter schools may establish enrollment preferences for:

9.2.b.6.A. Children who are siblings of students already enrolled in the charter school;

9.2.b.6.B. Children with special needs; and

9.2.b.6.C. Children of governing board members and full-time employees of the charter school as long as the number of students enrolled under this preference constitutes no more than five percent of the school's total student enrollment.

9.2.b.7. Preferences for students with special needs must define the documentation required to qualify for this preference. Documentation requirements must be minimally intensive to afford access to students with special needs and their families independent of their access to the resources necessary to complete documentation.

9.2.b.8. This section does not preclude the formation of a charter school whose mission is focused on serving students with disabilities. Charter schools with a mission to serve students with disabilities may prioritize recruitment and enrollment of students with a specific disability profile. In such cases, the agreement between authorizer and charter school on the provision of special education and related services, described in section 6 of this policy, shall reflect the charter school's mission.

9.2.c. Recruitment Activities.

9.2.c.1. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(1), the charter school shall engage in comprehensive publicity about the school throughout its primary recruitment area. Publicity shall include easy-to-understand information about the school, its educational mission, its educational program, and any focus on students with special needs. The charter school shall make all reasonable efforts to reach students in or entering the grade levels it serves and their families. Publicity and other recruitment activities shall describe, in plain language, the processes and timelines for student enrollment application.

9.2.c.2. Charter schools must publicize their offerings and actively recruit students in their primary recruitment area annually. Publicity and recruitment activities must provide families in the primary recruitment area with ample opportunity to complete the required student enrollment application prior to the deadline.

9.2.c.3. Charter schools must prioritize outreach to students with special needs that qualify them for an enrollment preference at the charter school as well as their families.

9.2.c.4. Such activities shall be designed to welcome all students and families regardless of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, religion, home language, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, other exceptionality, and prior academic performance and disciplinary record.

9.2.c.5. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(2), authorizers shall provide or publicize to parents and the general public information about charter schools with primary recruitment areas wholly or partially contained in the county as an enrollment option to the same extent and through the same means that the county provides and publicizes information about non-charter public schools in the county.

9.2.d. Enrollment and Retention Review.

9.2.d.1. On an annual basis, the governing board of a charter school and its authorizer shall review student enrollment, turnover, and transfer at the charter school. The purpose of the review is to ensure the school is providing a welcoming and positive educational environment for all students and their families within the primary recruitment area and/or eligible for enrollment preference based on special needs.

9.2.d.2. The enrollment review will compare the demographics of students enrolled in a charter school to surrounding non-charter public schools under the authorizer's jurisdiction. There are no hard benchmarks that trigger action and differences in student demographics are not themselves a reason for concrete actions. However, significant and persistent differences demand further exploration by the charter school in collaboration with its authorizer. These collaborative efforts should aim to guard against charter school enrollment contributing to nearby schools having divergent demographics, which runs counter to the spirit of W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(6). Enrollment reviews will consider enrollment of subgroups defined by characteristics including, but not limited, socioeconomic status, sex, race, ethnicity, disability, other exceptionality, and prior academic performance and disciplinary record.

9.2.d.3. The turnover review will explore overall turnover rates and the turnover rates for student subgroups. Student turnover, where a student transfers out of a charter school in between school years, is an inherent characteristic of charter schools in which students and parents/families/caregivers exercise choice over enrollment. However, excessive turnover, either overall or among specific student subgroups, is a warning sign that the charter school is failing to provide a significant segment of students with a positive learning environment. The purpose of the review is to identify instances of excessive turnover among all students or specific subgroups and outline steps to remediate the situation. In instances of problematic turnover, the charter school must work with its authorizer to create a positive and welcoming learning environment for all students. The review shall consider turnover for all students and student subgroups.

9.2.d.4. The mid-year transfer review will explore overall rates of mid-year transfers from a charter school and this rate for different student subgroups. A mid-year transfer is any transfer into or out of a charter school that occurs during the instructional school year for that school or any sending or receiving school. A high rate of mid-year transfers is a sign that the charter school is failing to provide students with a positive, welcoming learning environment. Examining differential rates for various student subgroups helps ensure that average rates do not mask issues specific to certain subgroups at a charter school. The purpose of the review is to identify instances of excessive mid-year transfer among all students or specific subgroups and outline steps to remediate the situation. In instances of problematic mid-year transfer, the charter school must work with its authorizer to create a positive and welcoming learning environment for all students. The review shall consider mid-year transfers for all students and student subgroups defined characteristics including but not limited to socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, home language, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, other exceptionality, or prior academic performance and disciplinary record, when applicable and subject to data availability.

9.2.d.5. As a result of the student enrollment, turnover, and mid-year transfer reviews, authorizers may request charter schools to prepare a CAP to remedy concerning trends for review and approval by the authorizer. Upon approval, the authorizer shall monitor the implementation of the plan by the charter school. If the charter school does not remedy the concerning student enrollment, turnover, and/or transfer trends through its CAP, the authorizer has the authority to take such action it deems as necessary to address the concerns and may recommend that the charter school appear before the WVBE to discuss the situation and develop appropriate remedies.

9.2.d.6. Authorizers who fail to faithfully uphold their responsibility to administer annual enrollment, turnover, and mid-year transfer reviews or take appropriate action when necessary may be subject to adverse consequences from the WVBE, including suspension of their role as authorizer.

9.3. Charter School Enrollment.

9.3.a. Annual target size announced by January 1 of each year.

9.3.a.1. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(5), the capacity of a charter school will be determined annually by the governing board of the charter school in conjunction with its authorizer. The capacity determination shall include both the overall enrollment capacity for a charter school as well as enrollment capacities by grade level within the charter school. The sum of sub-school capacities may exceed the overall capacity to account for variation in grade level enrollment. To allow for planning for both the charter school and public schools, the enrollment capacity must be agreed upon by the governing board of the charter school and its authorizer no later than January 1 of the year for which it will go into effect. Notwithstanding this annual deadline, the governing board of a charter school and its authorizer(s) may engage in cooperative planning to set multi-year target enrollments to guide long-term strategy and decision-making.

9.3.b. The Enrollment Timeline and Process.

9.3.b.1. The governing board of the charter school and its authorizer(s) shall agree upon an initial and annual enrollment process in their charter contract, pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-8(b)(7). This agreement shall clearly define the responsibilities of the charter school when it comes to managing the enrollment process, verifying student enrollment preferences, and conducting the enrollment lottery, if necessary, as well as the role of the authorizer in overseeing these processes.

9.3.b.2. For the initial year (charter schools opening in 2021-2022), the primary round of charter school student enrollment applications, lottery, and enrollment shall conclude by April 15, 2021. This date attempts to balance the timeline for the first application review process with the needs of both charter and non-charter public schools to plan appropriately for the upcoming year. In the 2021-2022 school year, this also establishes an initial enrollment to use project funding levels. Subsequent enrollments for a given school year shall be subject to available capacity, student transfers, etc.

9.3.b.2.A. In the event that the number of student enrollment applications approved statewide does not exceed the statutory limit, the deadline for enrollment shall be April 1, 2021, to provide additional time for charter schools and county boards to plan for the upcoming school year based on a more accurate projection of enrollment at charter schools.

9.3.b.3. For every subsequent year, the primary round of charter school student enrollment applications, lottery, and enrollment shall conclude by February 15 of each year to allow charter and non-charter public schools to plan appropriately for the upcoming year. In the initial year of a charter school's operation, this round of enrollment also establishes an initial enrollment to use to project funding levels. Subsequent enrollments for a given school year shall be subject to available capacity, student transfers, etc.

9.3.b.4. A charter school must make its student enrollment application available to the public at least 60 days prior to the application deadline.

9.3.b.4.A. The purpose of the student enrollment application is to allow students and parents to declare their desire to enroll in a charter school. The student enrollment application should promote an application process that is accessible to all students and families.

9.3.b.4.B. The student enrollment application is open to all students of the appropriate age or grade level in West Virginia, though some students will have preferences that make it more likely they will be able to enroll.

9.3.b.4.C. The student enrollment application must collect basic student information necessary for enrollment as well as to identify and document enrollment preferences.

9.3.b.4.D. The student enrollment application cannot include essay questions, admissions tests, or other barriers to enrollment that demand the demonstration of high achievement. Academic, discipline, or other education-related data may only be collected for schools with a preference for students with special needs that need to use such data to determine student eligibility for the preference.

9.3.b.4.E. The admissions process of a charter school shall be blind to disability status, except that the school may request that parents applying for enrollment disclose whether their child has an IEP if and only if the sole purpose of such disclosure is to apply an enrollment preference for such students, as permitted by W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(7)(C). In this case, parents shall be provided information on the enrollment preference before being asked to disclose their child's disability status. Any such disclosure shall be voluntary; parents shall not be required to provide information as to special education status when applying for admission, but students will not be eligible for an enrollment preference tied to disability if disability status information is not provided. Any school utilizing an enrollment preference benefiting students with disabilities shall include information about such a preference and the number of students utilizing it as part of its annual report to its authorizer.

9.3.b.4.F. Students and families must be able to complete the student enrollment application electronically or by using a paper hard-copy. Applications submitted electronically and by paper must be maintained for audit purposes.

9.3.b.4.G. The WVDE shall provide a student enrollment application template that meets the criteria above that charter schools in West Virginia may choose to use.

9.3.b.5. Student applicants shall be offered enrollment at the charter school if:

9.3.b.5.A. The number of qualified student applicants to a charter school for a particular grade level is less than the capacity for that grade level; and

9.3.b.5.B. The number of overall student applicants to a charter school is less than its overall enrollment capacity.

9.3.b.6. If these conditions are met, student enrollment at the charter school is open. All student applicants shall be offered enrollment. Additional students (i.e., those who did not apply prior to the application deadline) may enroll based on space availability and the order in which they apply.

9.3.b.7. If either of the above conditions is not met, an enrollment lottery shall determine the order in which additional students are offered enrollment.

9.3.b.8. Pursuant to W. Va. Code § 18-5G-11(a)(8), enrollment lotteries shall be conducted in open public meetings and involve procedures and timelines that support equal and open access for all students.

9.3.b.8.A. Enrollment lotteries may be conducted using computer-based randomization software. If randomization software is used, it must produce audit records verifiable by the WVDE.

9.3.b.8.B. The outcome of the random lottery is a priority ordering for students for enrollment in a charter school.

9.3.b.8.B.1. The random lottery shall occur during the open public meeting with the results announced and displayed publicly.

9.3.b.8.B.2. Students apply for enrollment in particular grade levels within a charter school. As such, enrollment lotteries will be separate for each grade level but must be conducted at one time in an open public meeting.

9.3.b.8.B.3. To incorporate the enrollment preferences in the charter contract, the random lottery will be stratified by grade level and enrollment preferences, including those without preference.

9.3.b.8.B.4. Within a given grade level, students are placed in the enrollment preference group with the highest level of preference as defined in the charter contract. Within each group, they are ordered by random lottery. Each preference group is then added to the enrollment order starting with the highest preference group to form the enrollment list.

9.3.b.8.B.5. Students who have a number on the list less than or equal to the capacity of the grade level are added to the preliminary enrollment pool.

9.3.b.8.B.6. If the number of students in the preliminary enrollment pool is less than or equal to the overall school capacity, all students in the preliminary enrollment pool will be offered enrollment.

9.3.b.8.B.7. If the number of students in the preliminary enrollment pool exceeds the overall school capacity, students in the preliminary pool enter a random lottery within students in their preference group but not combining students across grade levels.

9.3.b.8.B.8. Within preference groups, students are ordered by random lottery. Students are then added to the final enrollment list in this order starting with the students in the highest preference group.

9.3.b.8.B.9. Students with a number on the final enrollment list less than or equal to the capacity of the school are added to the final enrollment pool and will be offered enrollment.

9.3.b.8.B.10. Students not initially offered enrollment are added to the top of the wait list in their random lottery order.

9.3.b.8.B.11. Each student offered enrollment has the ability to opt out of enrollment. As students opt out of enrollment, students on the waitlist are offered enrollment, beginning with the first student at the top of the waitlist.

9.3.c. Each charter school shall enroll students without regard to disability status.

9.3.c.1. Following selection via the lottery, the IEP of any student with a disability shall be immediately reviewed. The review may result in adjustments to the IEP and/or the charter school's program necessary to ensure the student receives FAPE in the LRE.

9.3.c.2. In rare instances where an IEP Team determines that the charter school is not the appropriate LRE, the authorizer shall take responsibility for the student and determine his or her placement. If a charter school is repeatedly unable to provide students with disabilities with FAPE in the LRE, the authorizer may choose to address the issue in the annual enrollment review, request corrective action to address the limitations, and/or consider the situation as a factor in its renewal decision.

9.4. Student Discipline.

9.4.a. Charter schools shall define and publicize their own student behavior and discipline policies as approved by their governing boards. Provisions concerning student expulsion and out-of-school suspension must be incorporated into the charter contract.

9.4.b. Student expulsions from a charter school shall be approved by the governing board of the charter school. Charter schools must provide students facing expulsion with appropriate due process rights. In accordance with federal law, students with disabilities must be provided procedural safeguards and due process rights and procedures in accordance with IDEA and Policy 2419.

9.4.b.1. Students expelled from the charter schools remain the responsibility of the charter school. The charter school is responsible for providing the student with educational instruction and other legally required services to expelled students.

9.4.b.2. Charter schools may contract with county school boards to provide students expelled from charter schools with instruction and other legally required services at alternative education settings operated by the county school board. In such cases, the charter schools have the affirmative obligation to provide the receiving county school districts and alternative education settings with reports on students' academic and disciplinary standing as well as potential instructional materials to reduce the academic disruption for the students before their return to the charter schools.

9.4.b.3. When a student returns from a period of expulsion from a charter school, the student has the right to return to the expelling charter school. The student may also choose to return to a non-charterpublic school at the end of their expulsion.

9.4.c. Students receiving out-of-school suspensions from charter schools must continue to receive educational instruction and other legally required services during the term of their suspension. The charter school remains responsible for these services.

9.4.c.1. Charter schools may contract with county school boards to provide their students with instruction and other legally required services at alternative education settings operated by the county school board. In such cases, the charter schools have the affirmative obligation to provide the receiving county school district and alternative education setting with a report on the student's academic program and standing and disciplinary circumstances as well as potential instructional materials to reduce the academic disruption for the student before their return to the charter school. Any services for which a charter school contracts with a school district shall be provided by the district at cost and may be negotiated as a separate agreement from the charter contract.

9.4.c.2. Charter schools must provide students receiving out-of-school suspensions lasting more than 10 days with procedural safeguards and appropriate due process rights. In accordance with federal law, students with disabilities must be provided procedural safeguards and due process rights pursuant to IDEA and Policy 2419.

9.5. Transfers to/from a charter school.

9.5.a. Transfers to charter schools.

9.5.a.1. Students who wish to transfer to charter schools between school years will follow the enrollment process defined in the above subsection 9.3 of this policy.

9.5.a.2. Students who wish to transfer to charter schools mid-school year must complete the charter school application. If enrollment at the charter school is below capacity overall and in the grade level to which the student is applying, the charter school shall offer enrollment to the student. If the school or grade is at capacity, the student shall be added to the bottom of the waitlist.

9.5.b. Transfers from charter schools.

9.5.b.1. Students who wish to transfer from a charter school to a non-charter public school between school years shall be enrolled at a non-charter public school based on the standard enrollment process, considering both school attendance zones and open enrollment policies.

9.5.b.2. Students who wish to transfer from a charter school to a non-charter public school during the school year shall be enrolled at a non-charter public school based on the standard enrollment process, considering both school attendance zones and open enrollment policies.

9.5.c. Responsibilities of sending and receiving schools.

9.5.c.1. When students transfer between charter public and non-charter public schools, educators at both schools have an affirmative responsibility to collaborate to smooth the transition for students.

9.5.c.2. Electronic records in WVEIS shall automatically transfer to the receiving school. Sending schools shall compile other relevant educational records and transfer them to the receiving school in a manner compliant with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99, state law regarding student privacy and data protection, and Policy 4350.

9.5.c.3. Receiving schools shall make every effort to accept and recognize in progress grades and credits earned at sending schools based on the demonstrated achievement and education needs of transferring students.

9.5.c.3.A. Pursuant to W. Va. § 18-5G-11(b), non-charter public schools shall accept grades and credits earned by the student in courses or instructional programs at the charter school in a uniform and consistent manner and according to the same criteria that are used to accept academic grades and credits from other non-charter public schools or that consider content competency when appropriate due to differences in curriculum delivery, instructional methods and strategies, or course designations and sequence.

9.5.c.3.B. In the spirit of furthering the best interests of students, charter schools shall accept transfer credits from non-charter public schools or other charter schools using similarly uniform and consistent processes as those outlined above.

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