By Elizabeth Goussetis
A statewide committee of school officials, lead by Reynoldsburg Schools Superintendent Steve Dackin, issued recommendations on an open enrollment policy that has allowed 400 students from outside the district to enroll in Reynoldsburg City Schools this year.
This is the second year Reynoldsburg has allowed open enrollment. Last year the district set a cap at 195 students. That year, about 80 of the open enrollment students were “change of address kids,” meaning they were Reynoldsburg students whose families moved out of the district, Dackin said.
Each year, the district loses 35 to 40 students to open enrollment in other districts. Districts like Reynoldsburg that use open enrollment receive the per-pupil funding, about $5,700 per student.
“Reynoldsburg is one of the most mobile districts in Franklin County,” Dackin said, adding studies show frequent moves can harm student performance.
Open enrollment, according to Dackin, was “a way for me to allow kids who were doing well in Reynoldsburg to stay and continue that positive trajectory of learning.”
Reynoldsburg is unique because it is one of the few suburban districts adjacent to a big city that allows open enrollment.
The statewide committee called for further study regarding funding, which greatly impacts districts that lose students and the per-pupil funding that goes with them. The most popular suggestion, which would send only the state’s portion of per-pupil funding to the new school district with the student and leave the local funding in the home district, was researched and rejected by the committee.
“Under this alternative, looking at specific examples, net loss districts lost even more state funding than under the current funding system, in some cases twice as much, and low property wealth districts lost the most of all,” according to the committee’s report.
The committee recommended the state set aside a pool of money that losing school districts could apply for to make up for lost revenue from students who leave.
In Reynoldsburg, which brings in more students than it loses, school board members discussed the impact of the incoming students.
Board member Joe Begeny, who said he supports open enrollment in general, is concerned about class size.
“My only concerns with it, as everyone’s concerns, is student-to-teacher ratio, and making sure deadlines are adhered to,” Begeny said. “When you have a huge influx of students coming in, especially at the beginning of school year, you want to make sure you have enough staffing, placement, and everyone knows where they need to be.”
Begeny said he would support a change that would create “a definitive timeline on when students could apply, to make sure the staffing of the schools could be held to the best standards.”
Board members will have the opportunity to revise open enrollment policies this year, which Begeny said would be the responsibility of the school board’s policy committee.