By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Parents will face stricter proof of residency requirements when enrolling their children in Tupelo and Lee County schools this fall.
Both districts will require all parents, including those of students previously enrolled in the district, to provide documents proving where they live. That is a change for returning Tupelo parents, who previously only needed to sign a statement declaring their address had not changed from the previous year.
Lee County Schools had previously called for returning parents to provide residency documents, but the district changed this year the kind of information it will accept.
Tupelo will now ask all parents to bring residency information after auditors from the Mississippi Department of Education informed the district it needed to do so.
“We changed it because the state accreditation audits indicated we needed to do a better job of verifying proof of residency for every student,” said TPSD Community Liaison Mary Ann Plasencia. “We are complying with what the state has asked us to do.”
The district has provided a list of eight acceptable documents, and parents or guardians must provide two things from that list. The list is similar to what the district had been requiring new enrollees to show.
Parents must provide copies of the forms for each child they have enrolled in the district so the school can keep a record of them for auditors.
The annual accreditation audit noted Tupelo did not have such documents on file, although the finding did not carry any probation or penalties.
“I think we’ve done a good job in some schools, but haven’t done a good job at all of our schools in getting that information,” Plasencia said. “We’re trying to put some uniformity in the whole registration process.”
Meanwhile, the district will streamline the number of district documents parents need to sign at the beginning of the school year, Plasencia said.
Lee Schools will now ask for three proofs of residency. The district did not have a previous policy, Assistant Superintendent Coke Magee said, but most schools were only asking for two forms.
“In the past couple of years, we’ve had a good many problems with people falsifying information and getting into our school district,” Weeks said. “By the time we get information from the previous school district, we find out some of those students had been expelled or sent to the alternative school in their previous district. We felt we needed to revamp our residency requirements so it wouldn’t be easy to come under the radar.”
Among the biggest changes, Magee said, is that parents can only use either a driver’s license or voter precinct card instead of being allowed to use both as they were in the past. He said a team of administrators studied the requirements used by several similarly-sized districts in the state to inform the new policy.
Weeks called it a growing concern, but said it is hard to put a number on how many students have tried to sneak into the district.
“The biggest problem is district jumpers,” he said. “Someone gets dissatisfied with his or her present district and wants to go to another school. We’ve had a lot of cases like that in several schools where you might see the same student three or four different times during the year. When you have a child move like that, they regress.”
Weeks said the district also wants to ensure Lee County students are in the proper attendance zone: Mooreville, Shannon, Saltillo/Guntown or Plantersville/Verona. He said for those who don’t have certain documents, such as a driver’s license or voter card, other documents can be accepted.
Both districts begin class Aug. 7.
For parents/guardians of all students (including returning students)
Provide two of the following forms for each child:
Filed homestead exemption application, mortgage documents or property deed, apartment or home lease, one utility from the last three months (either water, gas, electric or cable), driver’s license, voter precinct card, automobile registration, affidavit of residency or district representative personal visit.
Provide one of each of the following:
Driver’s license or voter precinct card; utility bill from past 30 days or valid Lee County automobile registration receipt; copy of mortgage document, property deed, filed Homestead Exemption application form or apartment or home lease with length of lease.
There will be flexibility for those without a driver’s license or voter card.