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Special permit might allow attendance at other schools

You are convinced that public school is for you. Just not the one you've been assigned to. There is an option. Maybe.

The school district offers special attendance permits for students who have a hardship, a medical necessity or limited course offerings at their assigned school. The district also grants permits to its employees' children as a professional courtesy.

HOW DO I APPLY? Beginning in March, applications will be available at any school. Only custodial parents and legal guardians are authorized to fill out the application, and it must be done in the presence of the principal or a designee. The deadline is the end of the school year. If applying for a permit for medical reasons, you also must fill out a medical form and have it signed by the child's doctor. A physician approved by the school district will review the request for validity.

HOW LONG IS THE PERMIT VALID? For one school year. Then, you must reapply.

FOR WHAT REASONS ARE PERMITS GRANTED? One, if children need a school close to a caregiver. Two, medical reasons. Some children must be close to a particular doctor or a parent's job. Three, specific types of classes. Some parents may want their children to take a particular class that is not offered at the assigned school. Four, professional courtesy. Some district employees working at a particular school want their children at that school.

WHAT ARE MY CHANCES OF RECEIVING A PERMIT? It depends on how crowded the school is and, to some degree, if you are black or white. The schools have to comply with federally mandated desegregation guidelines, which limit the number of black students at any school. So if you are black and want to go to a school that already has the maximum number of black students, then you are out of luck. There are few exceptions. If you are white and applying to that same school, then chances are good that you won't be rejected. Siblings are given no special consideration. An application is required for each child.

Administrators have received about 7,770 permit applications this year: 5,754 were issued; 1,722 denied; and the rest are being processed.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON'T GET A SPECIAL ATTENDANCE PERMIT? You can appeal to the SAP Appeals Committee. The decision is final.

CAN I GET A PERMIT INTO A MAGNET OR FUNDAMENTAL SCHOOL? No. You must abide by that admission procedure.

ADVANTAGES: You can choose a school with a special curriculum or nurturing environments.

DISADVANTAGES: Permits may be difficult to obtain. Parents must provide transportation. Students with permits are banned from interscholastic activities for a year.