Mobile students

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Children in families who move frequently tend to have a harder time adjusting to a new school, hampering students' ability to learn. School officials in Cape Girardeau and Jackson are trying to find ways to deal with an increasingly mobile population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of children nationwide between ages 5 and 14 moved at least once between 1995 and 2000.

In Cape Girardeau, the percentage of mobile students is about equal to the number of students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, which schools use to measure poverty. In Jackson, the student mobility rate is 15 percent, while the free and reduced lunch count is 28 percent.

There are plenty of factors that affect student mobility. Single-parent families who rent are often the ones who move frequently. Divorce and affordable housing also are factors. School officials in Cape Girardeau leave it up to parents to alert the school when a family moves. But there is no penalty for not promptly registering at a new school. And waivers are available if there is a short amount of time left in the school calendar.

Attendance centers, each housing students in a certain grade, have been considered in the past in the Cape Girardeau district and might curb the problem. When families move, students would stay at the same school. But district officials haven't reached any conclusion on how feasible such a change would be. Most importantly, educators recognize the hurdles and are working to address such issues.

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