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New open enrollment seats in Ashwaubenon designated for 2019-20

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – About a third of more than 3,000 students who attend Ashwaubenon public schools do so under open enrollment.

But, the underlying message during the Wednesday, Jan. 9, school board meeting was about living in the district to guarantee being able to go to school in Ashwaubenon.

The board approved designating the number of available seats for new open enrollment students for 2019-20 at 271, a number that doesn’t affect students currently attending school in the district under open enrollment.

Based on grade level for the next school year, there are no available seats for new open enrollment students in grades 5-7 district-wide and only five available for eighth-graders at Parkview Middle School.

Business Director Keith Lucius reported the district is getting close to capacity at Parkview for 2019-20 with projections showing the school will be at or above capacity for 2020-21 if the district continues to accept new open enrollment students.

“It not a major issue that we will possibly exceed capacity over at Parkview,” Lucius said. “It’s just not as operationally efficient as what we would like…”

The board amended the recommendation Lucius presented to allow five new open enrollment students in the eighth grade, instead of none.

Being that 74 open enrollment students are now seniors at Ashwaubenon High School, Lucius said that number of new open enrollment students would be needed at the high school to have the same number of open enrollment students there in 2019-20.

The 271 new open enrollments students designated district-wide for 2019-20 includes 84 at the high school in grades 9-12.

Lucius said the district does not expect to receive the maximum number of new open enrollment requests, and some of those could be filled by students who move into the district.

He also noted the district can approve additional students in June if additional seats open up because of students moving out of the district.

The figures Lucius presented to the board list a projected 4K-12 enrollment of 3,169 with a maximum enrollment of 3,435 for 2019-20. Those numbers also show projected and maximum enrollment to be the same in grades 5-8.

Lucius said enrollment of students living in the district is increasing.

“What we’re seeing is, even going down to kindergarten and 4K, we’re seeing slightly larger groups of resident students at that early age, and they’re slowly working their way up through (the grades),” he said. “But we’re also seeing some move-ins in the elementary (school level). We see move-ins, additional kids, at the middle and high school.”

With these enrollment numbers, Lucius said Ashwaubenon will also see students moving into the district in the sixth grade, and students who attend parochial school could begin attending public school in Ashwaubenon in the sixth grade.

“Sixth grade and freshman year are our two biggest years where we add students, particularly the resident students, because of that transition year,” he said.

Board Treasurer Michelle Garrigan said there has been a perception in the community about those wishing to attend school in Ashwaubenon being able to do so under open enrollment without having to live in the district.

“At some point, we almost have to get the word out, or if you don’t get the word out, you’re going to have people applying and then be turned away,” Garrigan said. “And then all of a sudden, there’s this negativity, because we are perceived as you can open-enroll here. And all of a sudden, we’re not able to accept people.”

Lucius noted open enrollment is an option in Ashwaubenon, but no guarantee for non-residents of being able to attend school in the district.

“If you live here, it’s a guarantee, and people need to understand that,” he said. “There’s an incentive there to live within the district, and that’s the only way you can guarantee you’re going to get in.”

Board President Jay Van Laanen said he likes Ashwaubenon’s practice of open enrollment students who obey the rules being able to continue attending school in the district and not having to reapply.

“There’s other districts, where they switch at sixth grade, they switch at ninth grade, where you have to reapply,’ Van Laanen said. “You’re good K-5, but then you reapply, and it all depends on what their numbers are like (as to whether open enrollment students are accepted).”

Special education

Board members also designated the available new open enrollment seats for special education students in 2019-20.

They agreed with a recommendation from Director of Pupil Services Tammy Nicholson to have one open seat at Cormier, while the other school buildings would have no open seats for new special education open enrollment students.

In the event a new open enrollment student would be accepted at Ashwaubenon as a regular education student, but then would be placed as a special education student in the first year or two while attending school in the district, Nicholson said that student may be returned to his or her home district based on space in special education.

“That is something (the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) does allow us to do,” she said.

Because Ashwaubenon doesn’t have open seats at certain grade levels for new special education open enrollment students, Nicholson said there are parents who want their children to attend Ashwaubenon under open enrollment taking their children out of special education and then referring them for special education after being accepted in the district.

“I really want the board to know about that, because I received probably a dozen calls last year about things like that, and we have had some parents that do that,” she said.

If parents want to guarantee their children will attend school in Ashwaubenon, Nicholson said they should move into the district.

Nicholson and Lucius both reported to the board that state open enrollment aid will offset the cost of accepting new open enrollment students.

The public school open enrollment application period for the 2019-20 school year in Wisconsin begins Feb. 4 and ends April 30.

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