Student says school choice left him no choice

9:35 AM, Feb 17, 2013   |    comments
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SHERIDAN - Are you still a student if you don't have a school? 

Barry McDougald, 15, wants to attend classes. But, his mother says he is left with nowhere to go.

"I'm frustrated, angry, and I'm scared," said Cynthia McDougald, Barry's mother.

At the beginning of the school year, she enrolled her son in the Colorado High School Charter in Denver. But, the 10th grader says he did not like it there.

"[He] wasn't learning too much there," Barry said.

Cynthia McDougald says the drive from their home in Sheridan also became more trouble than they initially thought. So, she wanted to place him back in his home school, Sheridan High School, where Barry attended as a freshman. It's about a mile away from their house.

"They told me point blank, it was too far into the semester. They did not have to take him back, whether this is his home district or not," Cynthia said.

Sheridan Schools Superintendent Michael Clough says he cannot comment specifically on any issues with students. But, he did say the Colorado Department of Education has direct instructions on this matter. October 1 is student count day at schools all around Colorado. That is when a student is officially tabulated as a member of a particular school, which leads to the allocation of state funds for each student of about $6,700.

"I think the law is pretty clear that once a student makes a choice, it's good for them to go to the school and complete a year," Clough said. "The natural cycle [for enrollment] is in August, rather than having students jump from school to school to school."

Barry says he doesn't understand why he can't go back to his old school.

"I thought that was kind of crazy," Barry said.

Cynthia says that's not fair to parents who used school choice to select a charter school, but are not happy with their initial decision.

"You're telling him he can't have an education," Cynthia said.

Clough says he supports the right for parents to choose a charter school over their home school. But, he says once that decision is made, parents should stick to it.

"Really, this is a year-long commitment and it's good. It's good that people exercise their choice," Clough said. "But, know, that this is not a decision that should be taken lightly."

And, when Cynthia tried to go back to the charter school, she says she had no luck there, either.

"I did call them and they said that he has to go to his home school since I already withdrew him," Cynthia said.

Colorado High School Charter already received the state funds to educating Barry. But, now, McDougald says it won't take him back because he's already been removed from their system. Colorado High School Charter administrators did not want to comment.

"He's been out of school since the holidays. That's a long time," Cynthia said. "He's getting behind."

She is worried about complying with the truancy laws. Cynthia says she is searching for a school that will enroll her son this late in the year. She says homeschooling is not an option because she has to work full-time. In the meantime, Barry remains a student without a school.

"Just hanging out at home," Barry said. "It's alright, but I'd rather be in school."

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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