Residency verification saves Sequoia nearly $500,000

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Checks have prevented 90 students from attending school in the district

REDWOOD CITY — The Sequoia Union High School District has saved an estimated $470,000 since it began checking whether students live within district boundaries, according to a report that will go to the school board tonight.

The district began verifying student residency in 2005, starting with incoming ninth-graders. The program, now in its second year, has been extended to new 10th, 11th and 12th-graders, and has prevented 90 freshmen and an unknown number of others from enrolling in the district’s schools in the past two years, according to Susan Berghouse, director of student services for the high school district.

Unlike some districts, Sequoia — which includes Carlmont, Woodside, Sequoia, Menlo-Atherton and Redwood high schools — does not receive state revenue on a per-student basis. That means each extra student uses up part of a limited amount of financial resources, according to district Superintendent Pat Gemma.

“If a student is here that lives outside our attendance area, we are dividing up our local tax dollars unequally,” Gemma said.

The students from outside the district primarily come over the hill from Half Moon Bay, from the East Bay or from the neighboring San Mateo Union High School District, according to Berghouse. Many attended Redwood City, Menlo Park or Atherton elementary schools and want to remain among classmates, or their parents work on the Peninsula and find it convenient to bring them here during the day.

Some may also be coming for the education. “We’d like to believe it has to do with the quality of our district,” Berghouse said. “We have some outstanding schools.”

To qualify for enrollment, Sequoia district parents must now show a photo ID card, vehicle registration and income tax statement, or two utility bills with a local address, according to Berghouse. Although most students have been verified, 432 families remain on “provisional” status and will require a home visit before a final determination can be made.

The district does not distinguish between students from outside the district and those who are living inside the district with extended family or others who are not their official guardians at least part-time, or who are in shared housing and have trouble showing residency.

Similar policies have been adopted in neighboring districts, such as the San Mateo Union High School District, which earlier this year reported more than 71 families who could not show residency because they lived in shared housing or had other unusual living situations and did not have a signed lease or other bills in their names.

Sequoia district staffers will ask tonight for more help processing verifications, such as more bilingual employees and an additional $15,000 to pay for overtime.

The Sequoia High School District meets tonight at 4:30 p.m. in the district office, 480 James Ave., Redwood City.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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