EDUCATION

School residency fraud in Charles County targeted by officials

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North Point High School in Waldorf is Charles County's newest school. It's a science, technology and industry school that was founded in 2005 and can accommodate up to 1,900 students.

The problem is that as the 2012-13 school year gets into full swing, North Point has more than 2,200 students. It's an issue that many are blaming on residency fraud, in which parents from outside Charles County are faking their addresses to get their kids into the school.

That ends now, the Charles County School Board says. Beginning Wednesday, school officials will begin checking public records, asking for extra proof of residency and making unannounced home visits. It's all to verify that the kids and their parents live where they say they live, thereby making them actually eligible to go to North Point.

"The hallways are packed, the cafeteria is packed, the restrooms are packed," Charles County Schools spokesperson Katie O'Malley-Simpson said, adding that administrators have already discovered students that are from as far away as the District, Prince George's County and even a few in Virginia.

Meanwhile, residency fraud could come at a hefty price. If they're found out, parents could be on the hook for back tuition, which could cost to the tune of $6,000 if they live outside of Charles County and $11,000 if they live outside of Maryland.

Understandably, rule-abiding Charles County residents want this problem solved quickly.

"We grew up in the military, and my son had to go to school where he was supposed to," parent Nancy Gavaghan said. "There were better schools."

In the meantime, the district is already taking action. Students who live within Charles County but are supposed to be at a different school will be sent back there and prohibited from participating in athletics for the rest of the school year.

North Point is just the first school to be targeted, too. Charles County officials say other overcrowded schools will face audits as well.

"They should crack down - it's not fair to people who live in this area," parent Paul Conley said.

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