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Hammond Central reviews its nonresident student policy after 3 are asked to leave

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HAMMOND – Three former students will not be readmitted to Hammond Central School after the Board of Education said Tuesday that the students did not comply with the district’s non-resident policy.

Students Razia D. Phillips, 16, Jasmine A. Warwick, 13, and Macy A. Helm, 10, of Brier Hill, were asked to leave the district last month after a meeting between their mother, Viola J. Helm, and Superintendent Randy C. Richards.

“I don’t understand how the school can do this,” Razia said during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Board President Timothy Pitcher read a statement from the board saying it would not respond to public comments.

Mr. Richards said after the meeting that the board has an open door policy, but that parents or guardians must follow procedure when it comes to admitting non-residents.

At least 20 non-resident students currently attend school in Hammond.

“We have a policy that applies to everyone,” Mr. Richards said. “Last summer the district sent a letter to all those non-residents who were approved to attend the district. Letters were also sent to two families of non-students who did not comply with district policy.”

Mr. Richards said he could not comment further as the matter involves individual students.

Mrs. Helm said she moved out of the district in 2011 after a fire destroyed her family’s home.

She said she never received any notification from the district stating that she did not comply with the school’s policies nor did she ever submit a non-resident application on behalf of her daughters.

Mr. Richards said the decision to admit non-resident students comes down to a “resource and student policy issue.”

“It’s about the amount of resources, class sizes, special needs services and additional expenses,” Mr. Richards said. “If we have a policy, we need to stick to it.”

Mr. Richards said the district will review the policy to “firm up the language” with the school’s attorneys before the school board approves a final version at its December meeting.

Razia said that given the board’s decision, she will have no choice but to continue her last two years of high school in Morristown.

“I am heartbroken,” the 11th-grader said. “This is where I went to school since seventh grade. Before I attended Hammond, I never made the honor roll. I would like to come back to school here. I want to graduate with my friends.”

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