By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The Ashwaubenon school board voted unanimously Wednesday, June 10, to approve more than 200 new open enrollment requests from non-residents with less than 40 students living in the district granted permission to attend school elsewhere in 2020-21.
Business Director Keith Lucius said 209 of the 271 applications seeking to transfer into the district were recommended for approval.
The Green Bay school district accounted for the majority of incoming open enrollment requests approved at 158, followed by West De Pere at 26 and Howard-Suamico with 10.
Lucius said he typically anticipates around 50 percent of new students granted admission under open enrollment will attend Ashwaubenon, but after the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools to in-person instruction this spring, he expects that percentage could be lower next year.
He reported 62 applications were denied for various reasons, with 42 students being in a grade with no available open enrollment seats at Ashwaubenon and 14 having special education needs in a program where there are no open seats.
Of the 41 applications approved from 38 district students to attend school outside of Ashwaubenon, Lucius said the district doesn’t have a lot of reasons it could deny those requests.
“It’s almost a formality on the outs,” he said. “Just know that history shows us most of these applicants never attended Ashwaubenon.”
Jennifer Bower, secretary to the superintendent and school board, who handles the district’s open enrollment program, said only nine resident students attending Ashwaubenon requested enrolling elsewhere.
More than half of the 38 students who requested to transfer out of Ashwaubenon for 2020-21 applied to attend school in Green Bay.
Ashwaubenon, which in recent years has enrolled about a third of its 3,000-plus 4K-12 students from outside the district, does not require existing open enrollment students to reapply for admission.
Lucius said open enrollment funding comes from the district where a student exits.
For 2019-20, he said the per-pupil amount for full-time regular education open enrollment students was $7,771, while $12,723 was allotted for full-time open enrollment students with disabilities.
With year-round staff not making use of vacation time in March during spring break because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the board approved a payout of up to five days of unused vacation, if a staff member has more unused vacation than he or she is allowed to carry over each year.
“Our 12-month staff are very dedicated to being here when students are here, so the times when the majority of them take vacation are when school is off,” Lucius said. “Spring break is one (week) where we see the majority of our 12-month staff using some of their vacation time. They weren’t able to do that (this year). Really, it was all hands on deck as we quickly closed the week before spring break.”
He said the 12-month staff, most of whom have “quite a few” unused vacation days, were needed at the end of the school year when the buildings were closed to students because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was very difficult for them to use all the days that they had,” Lucius said.
He said the payout, which is being done on a one-time basis for 2019-20, will be made into a retirement tax-sheltered-annuity account, if a staff member is beyond the limit for vacation carryover.
“They were paid their normal salary, so it’s not money they were counting on,” Lucius said. “It’s money that they can put toward retirement and save on taxes. The district saves on taxes on it as well.”
He said administrators are only allowed to carry over half of the vacation days earned in a particular year, but they will be allowed to carry over 100 percent of vacation earned in 2019-20, if they are not at the limit for vacation carryover.
Lucius said he estimated the cost of the vacation carryover in May at $40,000, which he believes is high.
“I’ve seen people (since then) taking vacation days,” he said. “I think we’re seeing that number slowly trickle down, but I’d rather have you approve more for this than what the actual cost is than less.”
Years of service
Superintendent Kurt Weyers recognized Payroll Manager Kitty Blinstrub, who will reach 40 years of service with the district June 30.
Weyers said Blinstrub has worked for nine of the 12 superintendents in Ashwaubenon’s history.
“She’s not retiring yet, and we have been nudging her about the fact that we think she should go for 50 years,” he said. “Kitty has been a wonderful employee. She’s very dedicated, committed to her work and always a joy to work with. It’s quite the milestone to have 30 years with an employer, but to have 40 years is remarkable.”
Blinstrub said the district is a wonderful place with wonderful people to work for.
“I’m just blessed,” she said. “And that’s my second family that I work with.”
Weyers also recognized Hank Schmitt, who retired from teaching at Ashwaubenon in 2011 after 39 years and then became the district energy consultant, a position he held for nine years, for a total of 48 years with the district.
“Because of the energy program that Hank leads, we have saved almost $1.2 million, reduced greenhouse gases emissions equivalent to planting 126,747 trees and 1,030 cars not driven for a year,” Weyers said. “That’s some pretty impressive statistics. Thank you, Hank, and thank you to the energy program.”
Schmitt is leaving the energy consultant position after the current school year.