CCS re-ups on open enrollment programs

By Megan Kelley
Clarkston News Editor
INDEPENDENCE — The Clarkston Community Schools Board of Education voted 6-0 in favor of continuing the district’s open enrollment program at a number of levels at its last regularly scheduled meeting on March 11. Treasurer Stefanie Crane was absent from the meeting.
The motion included no changes to the number of students allowed to enroll in each district program through open enrollment.
Programs that re-upped on an unlimited open enrollment were: grades 9-12 at the CSMTech Academy, grades 11-12 in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, grades 8-12 in the Career Immersion Programs, grades 6-12 in the Construction Technology Program and grades K-12 in Online/Blended Learning.
The board also approved limited open enrollment (25 spots) for young fives through kindergarten.
There was, however, some discussion among the board when it came to open enrollment at the elementary level.
Currently, CCS limits open enrollment for young fives and kindergarten to 25 per year.
However, according to John Lucido, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, depending on the number of applicants, the district does often return to the board to increase that number.
“Each year we’ve asked for 25 spots as part of our approval process and we’ve always gotten more applications than that,” Lucido said. “As part of the requirements, we’re allowed to come back and accept those positions if they’re approved so that’s what we’ve done each of those years.”
Last year, CCS filled the 25 spots but because they had 63 applicants, administration returned to the board and were able to fill 55 spots.
“We’ve been above 25 (spots) since we’ve had this program in place,” Lucido said. “I think we’ve asked for them (more spots) each year.”
In trying to improve the process all together, administration has discussed different options to avoid having to gain approval to accept more students via open enrollment each year.
These solutions included increasing the number of spots to 75 for young fives to second grade, increasing the number of spots to 75 for young fives to fifth grade, or just maintaining the same practice of 25 spots for young fives to kindergarten.
“One of the biggest reasons we do this is to make sure we’re able to sustain our programs into the secondary (level),” said Lucido. “With us decreasing students, we need students to fill these seats. This is something that will help us long term.”
“The other reason is to make sure that some of our smaller elementaries don’t get down to having one class per grade level as they go through,” Lucido said.
Lucido explained that there is also a financial aspect of increasing open enrollment because for every student enrolled with CCS, the district receives the full FTE (Full Time Equivalent) funding through the state.
“There is a lot of value in having these students come over at a younger age because they get to be part of our system and move through and we get to mold them and they become a Clarkston student for a longer period of time,” said Lucido.
While the board understood the idea behind increasing the open enrollment, there were concerns about how that would impact enrollment going forward especially if those who enroll that way end up leaving the district at some point.
“I’m in favor of continuing our current practice. The more I think about this and the more I look at the numbers, the more I think it’s a terrible idea. I completely recognize the stability that you reference. In my experience and my broad view of other districts who have done this, I would say we’d introduce volatility instead of stability. And that makes me extremely nervous because you can roll up kids that live here because we know they either move out or they’re coming to school and when you get kids that (choice in) they may or not be here the next year because they have an incumbent school district somewhere that may be where they’re going next year,” said Trustee Steve Hyer.
Hyer also added that he didn’t believe the community wants to be an open enrollment district because the school district is a positive draw economically when it comes to families moving into the district.
“I don’t think the juice is worth the squeeze. I don’t think the risk of saying, ‘hey, we want to open this to a wider range.’ to let people come and go I think would be foolish on our part. I don’t think we should go down that road. Right now, it’s one and done, if you leave, you can’t come back and I think that has led to some stability in our practice,” Hyer said. “If it’s K-5 you can come and go every year and I think that’s a mistake. I think that will hurt us in our staffing and I don’t know that I want to take attention away from our primary goal of taking care of our kids to try and balance out class sizes a little bit.”
The rest of the board was also interested to know how many open enrollment students the district loses annually but while Lucido didn’t have the exact number, he noted that it was not something that concerned administration.
The board agreed that it was best to continue the current practice of opening up 25 spots for young fives through kindergarten but will likely discuss elementary open enrollment again in April, with additional information from administration, to consider increasing the number of slots for those grade levels.

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