Nearly 100 MIHS students take classes off-campus

Elizabeth Celms
Mercer Island Reporter

Nearly 100 Mercer Island High School students took course credit from schools other than MIHS last semester, according to a report conducted by interim Superintendent Gary Plano. Of the 95 students recorded, 50 were enrolled at MIHS less than full-time or fewer than five credits.

The interim superintendent presented the 2007-08 summary to the School Board earlier this month, cautioning that the information “may not be exhaustive” as the MIHS director of curriculum could not verify that every student form was received.

The news propelled School Board members into a discussion about securing the high school’s Full Time Equivalent (FTE) — the amount of money that the district receives per full-time student — and re-examining the high school schedule to keep students on the Island. The total loss in FTE last semester amounted to 10 students and approximately $50,000 in state funds.

“I think this is an area of concern,” said board member Adair Dingle. “These are pretty high numbers.”

Of the nearly 100 students taking off-campus courses, the majority enrolled in math and foreign language classes. Twenty-nine students received credit for an algebra class, 20 for geometry, 28 for calculus, 12 for Spanish, three for American sign language, two for French and two for Latin. Other off-campus courses included American studies, biology, chemistry, PNW, golf and study skills.

Plano also provided a list of the off-campus institutions enrolling MIHS students. Privett Academy, a private school on Mercer Island, taught 71 MIHS students last semester, while ETC Preparatory Academy enrolled 18. Other students took courses through Bellevue Community College (4), Brigham Young University online (4), the University of Washington (1) and other distance learning programs.

When asked the reasons for taking credits outside the school district, 39 students cited “specific learning needs,” while 38 said they had “concerns with the MIHS program.” Nine students said the course of their choice was not offered at MIHS.

Reporting on enrollment statistics and providing the School Board with periodic updates is part of Plano’s duty as interim superintendent. After discussing the off-campus student summary with School Board members on Feb. 7, Plano urged the team to prioritize the issue in the near future.

“Why are our students attending other schools?” he asked. “The future superintendent should delve into this thoroughly.”

The School Board meets at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 28, for its regular board meeting in the administration building. The board is not planning to discuss FTE and off-campus enrollment, but will update the public about the ongoing superintendent search, district instructional improvement plan — focusing on autism workshops and special education communities — and the NEVAC vocational education program, which offers MIHS students courses through NEVAC’s Newport High School branch.

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