Varsity high school athletes who transfer to a school choice school without a bonafide change of residence will have sit the first 30 days of the season in 2013-14.

The state Department of Education announced a change in its policy at the athletic director’s convention in Atlantic City on Tuesday.

Previously, the department had wanted students who transferred to school choice schools to be exempt from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association transfer regulations.

Hammonton, Ocean City, Mainland Regional, Lower Cape May Regional and Cumberland Regional will be local school choice schools in 2013-14. School choice schools are allowed to attract students from outside their sending districts.

Steve Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA, said this month in an interview with The Press that he wanted all of the state’s varsity athletes to be treated the same.

The NJSIAA governs New Jersey high school sports.

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, applauded the Department of Education’s move. Diegnan heads the Assembly’s Education Committee.

“I am pleased that the Department of Education has finally listened to the voices of concerned high school athletic directors, coaches and parents,” Diegnan said in a prepared statement. “This decision represents noteworthy progress toward what can only be described as a more common-sense rule that allows all schools to operate on a level playing field.”

Michael McGarry