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Elmbrook won't add any Open Enrollment students in 2014-15

Feb. 4, 2014

The Elmbrook School District will have no available Open Enrollment seats for the 2014-15 school year, the School Board decided last week.

Open Enrollment is a state-established program that allows students to attend a school district they do not live in. A school district may deny Open Enrollment applications due to a lack of space in the classroom.

The district projects residential enrollment for 2014-15 will be 6,244 students, which satisfies the district's class-size guidelines and student-teacher ratios in determining the available seats for the upcoming school year.

The district's format for the analysis, which has been commended by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, was implemented two school years ago, said Eric Kass, district assistant superintendent for finance, operations and human resources.

The DPI "has recommended us as the best practice across the state in terms of the format and the analysis that we go through to identify where the open seats exist," Kass said.

The district has not had any Open Enrollment seats since beginning this method, but has continued its tuition-waiver program that allows students who move out of the Elmbrook district a chance to continue their education there. They are given a one-year tuition waiver for the school year after their move. Once that waiver expires, they may continue their education in Elmbrook through the Open Enrollment program.

"The idea (is that) they didn't really take up a new seat, because they were originally resident students. They left and continued their same seat and will continue Open Enrollment in their own seat," Kass said.

However, having no Open Enrollment seats available does take a financial toll on the district.

Elmbrook has a total of 475 students in the Open Enrollment/tuition-waiver programs for the 2013-14 school year, but that number is projected to drop to 400 in 2014-15 due to graduating seniors. At $6,635 in revenue per Open Enrollment student, the financial impact would be a reduction of just less than $500,000 for the school year. Although reduced expenditures help offset a majority of the revenue loss, there remains a loss of about $97,000 in net profit.

"People that are denied (for Open Enrollment from school districts) can have an appeal process through the Department of Public Instruction," Superintendent Mark Hansen said. "On an annual basis, we face a handful of appeals. For the last three years, every one of our appeals has been found in favor of the district's opinion. Right now, our practices are in alignment with what the statutory expectations are in the rules and regulations from the department."

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