South Range expands open enrollment

BEAVER TOWNSHIP- The South Range school board Monday night approved an expanded open enrollment program for the fall in a further attempt to raise revenue.

The board unanimously approved statewide open enrollment for grades kindergarten through 12th. The action expands the adjacent open enrollment for grades kindergarten through sixth for the current school year, the first time the district has accepted students from outside the district. The number of students accepted will be determined by the capacity at each grade level.

In response to questions from the board regarding athletic participation of open enrollment students, schools Superintendent Dennis Dunham said that students in grades seven through nine are eligible to participate immediately. He said students in 10th grade who participated in sports the prior year must sit out 50 percent of their season, while students who did not participate the prior year will be eligible immediately.

The district collected the equivalent of roughly 3 mills through open enrollment this year, Dunham noted. One mill in South Range equals $175,000.

Treasurer Jim Phillips added that 76 percent of Ohio schools have open enrollment, the vast majority of which is statewide.

The open enrollment expansion is one of several issues identified by Dunham to address an imminent operating deficit, estimated at $425,000 for fiscal year 2015 in Phillips five-year forecast revision the board also approved Monday night. Phillips said he expects to begin borrowing from other funds to meet operating expenses in July.

The board is also considering a play to participate fee for extracurricular activities.

Dunham estimated that the district will incur $50,000 to $60,000 in transportation costs alone this year for the activities and said that administrators will spend the next couple months discussing reasonable fees. The board noted a neighboring district charges $100 to $200 for students to participate, but that cost includes all the students’ activities.

Dunham added that if programs need eliminated due to operating costs, any program that is not a required class is vulnerable. He said administrators are determining how each program affects the students to see which are most expendable.

A parent in attendance voiced concerns of overcrowding in the classroom and on the bus. She said that a visit to her child’s kindergarten class was an overwhelming experience and suggested that open enrollment has not been a benefit for the district.