- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Montgomery County schools officials said yesterday that they will open freshman orientation to about 200 high school students who have yet to prove their residency, though the students already have missed two deadlines to do so.

“We want to give the family and students every opportunity to provide address verification and continue with their schooling,” said Laura Steinberg, Montgomery County public schools’ director of reporting and regulatory accountability.

However, those students will not receive class schedules and cannot attend school if parents or guardians fail to provide residency verifications by orientation day.

About 2,000 of the county’s incoming freshmen missed the June 4 deadline, and hundreds still failed to verify their residency by June 15.

School officials said the number probably would be trimmed to 200 by yesterday.

“This process has never before been attempted in the county or in the state,” said Brian J. Porter, spokesman for Superintendent Jerry D. Weast. “It’s going to takea while to work out all the kinks.”

Officials have become increasingly vigilant in verifying residencies because of the increasing number of illegal aliens and students from neighboring districts wanting to attend Montgomery County’s schools without paying tuition.

However, the officials have also assured parents and guardians that addresses of foreign students would not be turned over to federal authorities on the trail of illegal immigrants.

Prince George’s County public schools have encountered similar problems.

Joyce Jones, an enrollment official, said an 18-month investigation in 1997 to 1999, showed that 60 percent of students lived outside the county and that many were avoiding payment of tuition.

The Montgomery school district sent home letters in five languages in May, June and July that stated the requirement for residency verification.

Families can verify they are Montgomery County residents by submitting copies of leases or recent property tax, telephone or utility bills. The copies should include names and addresses of the parents or guardians.

“It’s been an intensive effort to contact parents,” said Kate Harrison, a school district spokeswoman.

Tuition to attend one of the county’s 23 high schools is about $10,000 per student and about $20,000 for a special education student, Miss Harrison also said.

Montgomery’s International Student Admissions Office enrolled more than 5,300 students in the past school year. They represented about 160 countries and spoke 123 different languages.

The office has scheduled an open house on Monday to show parents of foreign students how to prepare their children to attend county schools.The open house will be from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Rocking Horse Road Center, 4910 Macon Road, Rockville.

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