Open enrollment approved for 2008-09

Elizabeth Celms
Mercer Island Reporter

Based on this past year’s success, the Mercer Island School Board has readily approved open enrollment for the 2008-09 school year. During its Feb. 28 meeting, all five board members, along with interim Superintendent Gary Plano, agreed that the district should, once again, adopt open enrollment to counter declining numbers.

“You can see from our [open enrollment review] that it was pretty positive — no suspensions, no discipline problems, teachers were happy with student performance. So we’ll do it an additional year,” said School Board President Pat Braman.

Associate Secretary of Business Services Liz Dodd has already begun looking over staffing numbers, class size and the district’s budget.

“We’ve started meeting with elementary principals to look at what their class loads are like,” Dodd said. “Next week, we’ll meet with the secondary principals to look at their preliminary numbers.”

Last year, MISD accepted 43 off-Island students to ease the financial effects of declining enrollment. Of these students, 28 attended elementary school, five enrolled at Islander Middle School and 10 — four freshmen and six juniors — at Mercer Island High School.

Administrators do not yet know how many students they will accept for 2008-09. This depends on class availability, teacher and budget flexibility, along with individual factors such as a student’s learning needs.

The only enrollment numbers available so far are 2008-09 kindergarten registration. According to interim Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services Kathy Morrison, 226 children are registered for the Island’s three elementary schools. This number is two less than last year, which is a good sign, Morrison said.

“We’re definitely up in our numbers, and in good shape for kindergarten at this point,” she said.

Each open-enrollment student accepted in 2007 earned the district approximately $4,577 in revenue and $180 in costs. These numbers will not change much for 2008-09.

Earlier this year, the district conducted an open enrollment student survey. The questionnaire, discussed at last month’s School Board meeting, revealed a predominantly positive response.

According to the survey, teachers reported that the 2007-08 open enrollment students added to the classroom, kept up academically with their peers, exhibited “average” academic performance and strong attendance, and did not require “disproportionate” individual attention. What’s more, Braman pointed out that there were no serious behavioral, social or academic problems with the off-Island students.

“The kids who came in didn’t have any problems -- no student issues,” the board president said. “In the big picture, [open enrollment] is going to help us.”

This year, the School Board is planning to send out notices of enrollment a month earlier, thereby giving parents more time to decide on the issue.

The School Board hopes to notify off-Island parents that their child has been accepted to MISD by June 1. Last year, the letters were sent out by June 30.

The district will also require that applicants submit their full academic record, giving administrators more material to work with when deciding whether a student is the “right fit” for MISD.

Although asked to submit this information last year, not every parent followed through entirely, Plano said. This year, the district will be more stringent with this requirement.

A community notice about 2008-09 open enrollment, written by Plano, is now available on the district Web site:

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