SR board continues open enrollment for next year

BEAVER TWP. –The South Range school board this week agreed to continue open enrollment for the next school year, but a board member voiced a concern about how students are accepted on a yearly basis.

The board approved the continuation of statewide open enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year with a unanimous vote. Students wishing to attend the district through open enrollment must apply each year and class sizes can be filled until capacity. Currently grades one, two, five and six are at full capacity and no students will be accepted in those grades, according to schools Superintendent Dennis Dunham.

Applications are now available and can be submitted starting March 4.

Despite voting for the action, board member Taylor Christian asked if requirements for applying each year can be made more stringent, saying he is under the impression that open enrollment students who are re-applying are automatically approved.

Dunham said that there are restrictions regarding behavior, attendance and grades, but that if an open enrollment student from a previous year presents no problems they are more than likely approved again. He also noted that the district cannot discriminate against open enrollment students and must treat them the same as a resident student.

Additionally Dunham noted that if a class is at capacity at the beginning of the year, the district cannot reject a resident student who moves into the district during the school year, so there is some leeway during the year regarding class capacity. His explanation was in response to a parent who said her daughter’s class was at capacity, but new students started during the school year.

Resident Rich Feranchek also spoke against open enrollment prior to the board’s vote, stating that he believes the majority of residents do not want open enrollment and the district will never pass a levy while offering open enrollment since residents will not agree to pay higher taxes for non-resident students. He said he wants the district to downsize its staff to the current amount of students, calling it “right sizing,” instead of using open enrollment to maintain staffing.

Dunham responded that classes are approximately 30 percent open enrollment. He said the administration is not running the district to build it up, but rather run it at capacity.

“We would not be able to offer the programs that we currently offer…(if) we do not have the people to fill those clubs, those athletic teams, academics, whatever the classes are, when you’re dealing with 60 kids compared to 95 kids,” he said.

Board President Corey Yoakam also responded that an Ohio Department of Education report shows the district is not overstaffed. He noted, as well, that open enrollment is providing the funding that makes it possible for the district to avoid asking for a levy.