Open enrollment, a law that allows Ohio school districts to accept students whose parents live outside their designated area, has been going on in Ohio for two decades.
But even this current year, schools feel the effects of districts shifting their stance on the practice.
South Range Local School District recently announced it is expanding open enrollment to include middle and high school. Right now, the district only has open enrollment for kindergarten through sixth grade. The change for next school year means anyone in the state of Ohio will be able to send their kids to South Range schools.
Superintendent Dennis Dunham said open enrollment has allowed the district to get its numbers back up, be more efficient and optimize classroom size. The district has received 30 application inquiries in the past week. Applications are online and at the district’s main office.
The district hopes open enrollment will help with a fiscal deficit. The state gives the district $5,700 for open enrollment students. Resident students get half that amount.
“We’re looking at trying to sustain our programs, and that’s really what it speaks to, trying to keep the programs that we have,” Dunham said. “One way to do that is to increase our student population.”
Boardman’s superintendent said his district lost six students to open enrollment at South Range.That breaks down to almost $35,000.
Over at Crestview Local School District, one-third of students entered the system via open enrollment. The superintendent said there are 37 new students there this school year.
Meanwhile, the Youngstown City School District is doing what it can to keep more students from leaving the district after losing 1,200 students and $8 million to open enrollment.
Youngstown City Schools Superintendent Connie Hathorn said that the system is also adding programs to attract kids to the school system. He mentioned the Discovery Program at Kirkmere School for students studying science, technology, engineering, math, visual performing arts, and dance in grades three through eight.
Hathorn said this year the district hasn’t lost as many students to open enrollment.
“There were times (we were) losing 300 to 500 students a year, so now…I think we lost about 100 students, so we stopped the bleeding,” Hathorn said. “That’s quite a bit of money out of the general fund.”
Hathorn said he doesn’t have a problem with parents having options for their kids. He said at the end of the day, it’s doing what’s right for students.
“What we have to do is be better than our competitors, so that’s what we’re trying to do now,” Hathorn said.