School weighs open-enrollment options

LIBERTY -- School board members are weighing the district's open-enrollment options, and dozens of parents have let board members know exactly how they feel about the issue.
Superintendent Larry Prince said board members will make a decision in the near future, but they wanted to hear the community's concerns before making that decision.
"Currently, we are not accepting applications because the board's decision on open enrollment is still pending," Prince said.
Mixed emotions
Comments from those in attendance at Tuesday's special caucus were a mixed bag. Some were in favor of open enrollment, even on a limited basis, but others were adamantly opposed.
One woman told the board she would be moving out of the district and wanted to enroll her children in the open-enrollment program. She said the children should not be made to suffer simply because she cannot afford to buy a home in the township.
Another resident, Leslie Thomas, said his 18-year-old grandson was told he would have to show how he supports himself before returning to the district after briefly moving to Florida. He said it is unfair to watch kids from outside the district attend the schools while his grandson is denied admission.
Prince said Thomas' grandson falls under a provision requiring adult students living away from parents to show how they support themselves.
About academics
Most of the commentary, however, came back to academics.
Resident Jeff Grinstein told board members the pupils attending schools under the open-enrollment program do not appear to be a discipline problem, but they statistically perform sub-par academically to pupils living in the district.
He supports an open-enrollment policy that will bring pupils to the district in the earlier grades to keep them at an even level with other pupils in the district.
Prince said the board will be considering a limited open-enrollment policy for next year, with a focus on incoming pupils in kindergarten and first grade.
Prince said open-enrollment pupils, generally speaking, do not perform as well academically as pupils living in the district. He said getting the pupils early will be beneficial for them academically and the district.
District's goals
Prince said if the district permits about 10 open-enrollment pupils into those early grades each year, the district will ultimately meet its goal of 120 open-enrollment pupils districtwide who have progressed through the system from the early years of their education.
The district currently has 110 open-enrollment pupils. The district receives about $586,000 annually for them. Some questioned the effects a loss of such cash would have on the district.
One woman asked the board that with a contentious issue like open enrollment in the air, and if a 3-mill renewal levy on the May ballot were to fail, what effect would be seen in the school system. The levy brings in about $740,000 annually.
Board members said the levy and funds generated by open enrollment are major factors in the district's budget. The loss of such revenue, they said, would have a noticeable impact.
The board has not set a date for any decision on next school year's open-enrollment policy.

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