But nearly twice as many still leave district as enter under state program

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Staff writer

For the first time in at least 10 years, the Burlington Area School District has to do something it really doesn’t want to – limit open enrollment opportunities.

With new state law mandating that school districts now make public the number of open enrollment spots available at various grade levels, BASD will have as many as 47 open spots in some grade levels – and none in others.

The district will also be unable to accept any open-enrolled special education students, as the district is already filled to capacity for students with available staff.

“It’s based on the DPI (Department of Public Instructions) caseload recommendations,” said Marty McGinley, coordinator of the program for BASD. He added that the district is full basically because of its own needs in special education. “It has nothing to do with who is already open-enrolled.”

While the open-enroll positions are being established in March this year – because the law was delayed – the guidelines will be set in January starting next year.

“We haven’t had to do it before,” McGinley said. “Most schools have had to do this for years.

“For us, we, basically, for the last 10 years … we accepted anybody, because we had the space. We never had more than we could accept.”

McGinley said budget constraints and staff limitations have put the district in a position where it has to limit the number.

“It never makes any sense to hire additional staff for students who open enroll,” said McGinley, who added that the state funds an of estimated $7,000 per open enrolled student doesn’t cover the cost of educating the student in question.

For the 2011-12 school year, BASD has 182 students who plan to leave, and 96 who plan to enroll in the district. The district is losing the most students – 31 – to Waterford Graded School District J1, and another 14 to Waterford Union High School.

By comparison, just three students open-enrolled into BASD from Waterford Graded, though the number is plus-six (20) for Burlington High School.

What stands out most for McGinley, who made a presentation on open enrollment so the School Board could approve the available number of positions Monday night, was where students who are leaving the district reside. It’s not just students on the edge of two borders, he said. A number of students who live in the center of Burlington have chosen to enroll elsewhere.

“It’s the ones in the center of town that I’m worried about,” McGinley explained.

The district’s open positions as established Monday night are:

• Lyons Center School: Three kindergarten, six first grade, 17 second grade, four third grade, and five fourth grade.

• Winkler School: no kindergarten, nine first grade, 17 second grade, nine third grade and 18 fourth grade.

• Waller School: 10 kindergarten, 18 first grade, seven second grade, no third grade and 14 fourth grade.

• Cooper School: six kindergarten, seven first grade, none in second, third and fourth grade.

• Cooper Montessori: four kindergarten, 11 first-third grade.

• Dyer School: six fourth grade (Montessori), 33 fifth grade and 34 sixth grade.

• Karcher Middle School: 47 seventh grade and 31 eighth grade.

• Burlington High School: 30 in ninth grade and in tenth grade, and 25 in 11th grade and in 12th grade.

McGinley also added that the estimates don’t mean that the district will get that many open enrolled students, but simply are the number of spots the district can absorb and keep classes sizes and staffing at an adequate level.