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Monday, June 25th, 2012

Plus, minus of open enrollment

Some local schools add revenue while others lose from students switching

By Amy Kronenberger
Open enrollment at public schools can boost revenue at one district while taking it from another.
The practice that allows a student to transfer to another school is permitted in every district in Auglaize and Mercer counties and most schools in Ohio. State funding follows the student.
For schools such as Parkway and Coldwater, the gamble of open enrollment has paid off.
Coldwater will have 92 students from outside the district enrolled next year, and 18 students are leaving the district. The state gives schools about $5,500 per student, therefore Coldwater will receive $407,000 through open enrollment next year.
Parkway will gain 81 students and lose about 40. Its payoff - $225,500.
"Add that up over five years and that's over $1 million we don't have to collect in taxes," Parkway superintendent Greg Puthoff said. "Open enrollment can really help a lot."
Coldwater superintendent Rich Seas said people were concerned about losing money when he first brought up the idea of allowing open enrollment. But the numbers have always been positive.
"I think it's worked well for the district," he said. "It does bring in extra revenue, and it's serving the community well."
Puthoff said Parkway's open enrollment numbers increased after completion of the new K-12 building in 2006. They bumped up again when the school received its first excellent rating on the state report card two years ago.
School officials said the top reason families choose open enrollment is relocation. Parents often want their children to finish school in the district in which they started, even if the family moves into a new community.
Many students who open enroll often live closer to that school. Minster's superintendent Brenda Boeke said several families live within New Bremen and Fort Loramie corporation limits but are in the Minster school district. Those families go to New Bremen or Fort Loramie.
Minster will lose 19 students next year while gaining four through open enrollment. The district will lose about $82,500 next year.
In Celina, 170 students have chosen another district next school year but the district will take in 71 students. The net loss is $544,500 in state funding.
Celina's superintendent Matt Miller said most of the students lost are from the Montezuma area, where the Franklin school building was closed years ago. The majority of those students open enroll at neighboring Marion Local.
At St. Marys City Schools, director of instruction Bill Steinbrunner said the new facility has not improved enrollment numbers in the last few years.
"I heard the theory of 'if you build it, they will come,' but no parent has given that for their reason," he said.
Steinbrunner said some parents want their children to attend school in the community where they work or where they attended school.
"It's a pride thing," he said.
Puthoff said some students transfer to larger schools for more opportunities and extracurricular activities. At the same time, other families prefer a smaller school for safety and smaller classes.
"For example, a student could transfer to Celina because they have a wrestling program and we don't," Puthoff said. "Or some come to Parkway because we have an excellent FFA and band program."
According to the Ohio Department of Education, about 14 percent of the state's 664 districts allow open enrollment at adjacent districts, about 22 percent do not allow open enrollment and about 64 percent allow statewide open enrollment.
In Auglaize County, St. Marys and New Knoxville allow statewide open enrollment. The rest only allow enrollment for adjacent districts.
In Mercer County, Marion Local and Parkway allow adjacent district enrollment. The others permit statewide open enrollment.
Area school officials say their numbers have stayed about the same in recent years.
Puthoff said districts are careful about how many students it allow to open enroll. If a school accepts too many students, they would need to hire more teachers and the concept would not be cost effective.

Open enrollment:

DistrictStudents gainedStudents lostState funds
Fort Recovery3824$77,000
Marion Local448$198,000
New Bremen4315$154,000
St. Henry69$16,500
St. Marys2332$49,500
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