Maria F. and Mark S. Purcell live in the South Jefferson Central School District, but own property in the Watertown City School District. So as city district taxpayers, they figure their 18-year-old son, Samuel F., should be able to take an advanced placement physics course at Watertown High School.
But Samuel is a senior at Immaculate Heart Central School, and the Watertown Board of Education at its Aug. 21 meeting denied his request to be allowed to take one class at WHS.
Watertown Superintendent Terry N. Fralick said the board turned down a similar request from another student a year ago, so it simply referred to its previous decision not to allow out-of-district students to enroll in one course.
The boards view is that if a student is interested in other courses, there are other avenues, such as online and community college courses, he said. This isnt some kind of decision made against IHC students.
Board President Michael R. Flick said the boards decision was made partially because the district occasionally cannot take care of its own students course wish lists.
For example, some electives we only offer on an every-other-semester basis, he wrote in an email. Balancing wants and needs is never easy when they have to be put up against practical student management and what the implications of a decision may mean.
However, Mrs. Purcell has continued to pressure the city district to reconsider its decision, which the board might do this week, according to district officials.
Mrs. Purcell said her son is passionate about physics.
Having exhausted the curriculum of his small school, he had intended to spend his senior year studying AP Physics at Watertown High School, a class that his schools small student body, and thereby curriculum, was unable to offer, she wrote in a letter to the Watertown Daily Times.
Samuel created a schedule that would have him drive to Watertown High for the AP course, drive to IHC to take a few classes, drive to Jefferson Community College to take an English class and then drive back to IHC to finish his school day.
The Purcells are willing to pay tuition. Mrs. Purcell said she does not understand, with all the collaboration that occurs between the two schools, why her son was denied the course.
According to IHC High School Principal Lisa A. Parsons, these are areas in which the two districts collaborate:
■ Student transportation, textbooks and special-education services, which are required by law.
■ Boxed lunches provided to IHC elementary students, which are reimbursed by the private school.
■ IHC swimmers and track and field athletes can be on Watertown High Schools teams, but they play in their own uniforms.
■ Students from several districts, including Watertown and IHC, play on the same varsity hockey team.
In addition, Mrs. Parsons said IHC would welcome students who wanted to take individual courses there on a case-by-case basis.
We traditionally have a great collaborative arrangement with Watertown, she said. The dialogue will continue, but then the sun sets at the end of the day; I know the district will do what is best for the students.
Mrs. Purcell said she hopes to change the Watertown boards policy so future IHC students can take public school courses if options at their home school are exhausted.
She hired a lawyer to determine if there is language in state education law that would allow gifted students attending parochial schools to take courses at public schools if they do not have other options.
I dont think I will pursue the school (legally), but I wish they would open their eyes, she said.