Austintown opens to nondistrict pupils

By Elise Franco

The board’s vote on open enrollment was not unanimous.

AUSTINTOWN — The school board voted to open the district to Ohio pupils from outside Austintown, starting next year.

In a three-to-two vote, the board approved a recommendation to implement open enrollment for the 2009-10 school year.

Board members David Ritchie, Joyce Pogany and Louis Chine voted in favor. Richard Zimmermann and Traci Morse were opposed.

Zimmermann said he voted against open enrollment because he’d like to see people who want to send their children to Austintown schools actually move into the township.

“I feel there are a lot of good homes in Austintown that people can move into,” he said. “If the school district is good enough to send your children to, then our township should be good enough to live in.”

No other board members gave reasons for their votes.

Superintendent Doug Heuer said allowing pupils from districts all over the state to enroll would bring much-needed money into Austintown schools.

“We’re looking at this from the reality of the coming fiscal year,” he said during Monday night’s school board meeting at Austintown Middle School. “This is one way the state allows the district to bring in new revenue without raising property taxes.”

Heuer said school districts can choose to allow pupils from districts immediately bordering its own to enroll, or it can open up enrollment to any pupil in Ohio.

He said 74.4 percent of schools in Ohio have open enrollment, and of those, 55 percent choose to go statewide.

“We have chosen the all-districts option,” Heuer said. “I recommend if we’re moving ahead, it would be best to maximize potential.”

Heuer said he’s not sure how much in state funding each outside pupil would bring into the district, but in 2008-09, the figure was $5,472 per pupil.

He said last spring and summer he received many inquiries from parents interested in sending their children to Austintown, although he didn’t have an exact number.

“I think next year we’ll certainly be able to get enough students to offset the loss of Austintown students who open enroll in other districts,” Heuer said.

He said this school year alone, 168 pupils chose to leave the district through open enrollment, costing Austintown schools roughly $900,000. According to the Ohio Department of Education Web site, the district’s current enrollment is 4,951 pupils.

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