By Janie Southard
NEW BREMEN -- Opinions were mixed during the board of education's open enrollment discussion Wednesday night with seven attending community members.
Board President Norm Holcomb began the exchange with a disclaimer. He said no firm decision will be made for several months. However, the decision will come in time to initiate the program next school year should that be the board's wish, he told the group.
The definition is simple: open enrollment allows a student who lives in one school district to go to school in another district. State funding, presently about $5,200 per pupil, follows the student. Transportation to and from school lies with the parents or guardians of the student.
Only students who have been expelled from their home districts can be barred from transferring to another district, according to state law. Also, students cannot leave their home district if their absence disrupts racial balance, which may account for the fact that most of Ohio's open enrollment districts are rural.
Holcomb pointed out there are two basic options as to who can enroll. "We can limit it to students from neighboring, contiguous districts and I think we touch a lot of other districts. Or, we can accept kids from anywhere in the state," he said.
According to law, the school board's policy must set limits by grade level, school building and education program. It must give preference to students who reside in its own district.
District Treasurer Deb Meyer cited one scenario that would pose a problem to parents using open enrollment.
"You may have open enrolled your two or three children in the fall and everything is going well. But, then in January another kid moves into the district. When she starts school, it puts the third-grade class over max and your child then has to go to another school," Meyer said.
Thirteen new students moved into the New Bremen district and began school in 2005 making Meyer's scenario viable.
Another concern was what if a 4.3 grade point average senior moved in and dislodged the valedictorian spot from a district native student. One community member commented that incomers could use all the district's facilities such as those built and supported "by community donations and pride without ever going through the hard times."
Aside from those type issues, the bottom line is financial gain or loss.
"Celina has open enrollment in order to make up for the mass of students they've lost to other districts over the past couple years. For them it's been a big advantage," Superintendent Larry Smith said.
For New Bremen it's the opposite concern where staff is already trimmed and many classes are near maximum.
"It would benefit our general fund as long as we would not have to hire new staff," Meyer said.