District to enroll 43 from off-Island

Superintendent Cyndy Simms revealed the number of students accepted for 2007 open enrollment during the Mercer Island School Board’s year-end meeting last week. The special enrollment policy, which lets a set number of children from off the Island attend district schools, was approved as a means to counter the current decline in students (a drop of nearly 100 in two years).

A total of 43 students were accepted from open enrollment applicants for this coming school year, Simms told the board. The district received 79 applications.

“These numbers aren’t guaranteed,” the superintendent reminded the board. “Some parents may, in the last minute, decide not to send their child [to Mercer Island].”

According to Simms, the selection process was predominantly based on class availability, as well as individual behavior and educational needs.

Of the 43 students accepted, 28 will attend one of the Island’s elementary schools, five will enroll at Islander Middle School and 10 — four freshmen and six juniors — at Mercer Island High School.

Due to full classes at all three Mercer Island elementary schools, no second grade applicants were approved for open enrollment this year with the exception of one student whose sibling was accepted for fifth grade.

“The only exception we make for class size is in a situation where two siblings are accepted to the district,” Simms explained.

There were also no 12th graders accepted due to overcrowding.

Simms said the students would be coming from all over King County, including Seattle, Renton, Federal Way, Bellevue and Issaquah, and from both private and public schools. Three home-schooled students, two applying for the 12th grade, were denied admittance. The fact that they were home-schooled, said Associate Superintendent Gary Plano, would not have harmed their chances.

“Home-school students are entitled to attend our public schools, just like any other student,” he said. “But first we have to assess them and decide which grade they should be placed in. A 12th grade home-schooled student may not be placed in our 12th grade.”

Mercer Island principals have already sent out letters to parents, notifying them of their child’s acceptance. A handful of applicants were put on a waiting list, Simms said, giving space for families moving to the Island this summer to enroll their children. Those on the list will be notified of their status in late July and early August.

Each student accepted through the open enrollment group will generate approximately $4,577 in revenue and $180 in costs for the 2007-08 school year.

In addition to these students, children of off-Island faculty members have the option to attend district schools. Simms pointed out that MISD accepts a number of faculty and staff children every year, “although we don’t have too many,” and that this annual number is not considered open enrollment. Last year, the district accepted 12 elementary students, along with seven middle- and high-school students.

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