Area school district open enrollment better than last year

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By Ted Pennekamp

The Seneca School District gained this school year with 48 students who open enrolled into the district, said Seneca Superintendent David Boland.

“We had a few more students open enroll this year,” said Boland, who noted that Seneca had 43 students open enroll last year.

“The overall increase in open enrollment funding this year is $31,030 higher than last year, which goes into the general fund for staffing, programming, and day-to-day operations,” Boland said. “We feel our school’s small size and dedicated staff allow all students to maximize their talents and reach their potential as they strive to accomplish their goals.”

“Open-enrollment numbers are very important to all public school districts. We saw a net increase through open enrollment of seven students from last year,” said Wauzeka-Steuben Superintendent Robert Sailer.

A student is counted as a positive when they open enroll into the district and are counted as a negative if they are open enrolled out, explained Sailer.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction estimates a district will receive $7,055 per student for each student who open enrolls into their district during the 2017-2018 school year. Each district pays out $7,055 per student who open enrolls into another district.

“Wauzeka-Steuben is currently negative four,” said Sailer. However, last year we were negative 11. Comparing numbers from each year, Wauzeka-Steuben paid out approximately $50,000 less this year to other school districts.”

An overview of the state indicates that, many times when a district comes into financial hardship without warning, from a financial forecast model, it is because there was a change in their open enrollment, said Sailer.

There is a multitude of reasons why open enrollment numbers for any district can drastically go up or down. Typically, open-enrollment increases as districts receive state or national awards, have successful sports programs, and/or proven academics. The opposite applies if a district is losing enrollment. However, perspective of a district is key, said Sailer. This is why Wauzeka-Steuben has taken a very active role to promote and market its district.  

“The day-and-age of students attending the district they live in, just because they live there, is over,” Sailer said.

“We currently enroll students from River Ridge, Prairie du Chien, Seneca, Boscobel and North Crawford. And in return, we have students that open enroll out to Prairie du Chien, Seneca and Boscobel.  In today’s world it is about finding the right fit for the student.”

Sailer said, in some cases, it is about where the student’s parents work and the ease it is for them to stay closely connected with their children’s school. In other cases, a small event in a district can be turned into something much larger through social media, which then can impact a district positively or negatively.

“Last year, fall (2016) Wauzeka-Steuben held community meetings to cut more than $650,000. This was a painful process,” said Sailer.  “Wauzeka-Steuben knows that, to remain financially stable, we need to be fiscally smart/responsible and plan for the ups and downs of any school budget cycle. The reduction in costs this year helps to stabilize the district even further, which is taking children to even greater heights than ever before.”

River Ridge saw an open enrollment net increase of 10 students. The increase in students and slight change in composition of open enrolled student designations has resulted in a budgeted revenue increase of approximately $60,000 from the previous year, said River Ridge Business Manager Kevin Kocer.

“This increase has largely gone to staff compensation and benefit cost increases,” Kocer said.

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