MISD board votes in favor of open enrollment for next school year

Open enrollment for the next school year is a go.

At the Mercer Island School District (MISD) board of directors meeting on March 28, the board voted 4-1 in favor of open enrollment for 80 to 100 students in grades 8-12 for the 2024-25 school year.

The board also voted 5-0 to expand the enrollment options for the children of district staff members (eligible coaches, educators, club advisers and part-time staffers), and to shift the final decision making on open enrollment from the superintendent to the board, according to the MISD. The superintendent will now act in an advisory role in the process.

The superintendent makes an open-enrollment recommendation annually by April 15 and the board takes a new vote each year.

During the meeting, a plethora of residents stepped up to the podium to provide public input and all voiced in favor of open enrollment. There were no speakers against open enrollment.

Several speakers were passionate while delivering their messages, which touched upon diversity, inclusivity, belonging and praise for copious MISD programs in the fine arts realm like theater, band, radio and more.

Floyd Short, who grew up on the Island and is a parent to two Mercer Island High School (MIHS) graduates and a current sophomore, told the Reporter why he favors open enrollment.

“I think it’s important for us to have a critical mass of students and funding in order to support a broad range of programs and courses for our students,” said the MIHS grad.

Superintendent Fred Rundle explained in a recent community webinar that open enrollment evens out enrollment, sustains programs and services and creates a more predictable short- and long-term enrollment. He recommended to the board on March 28 that the district engage in open enrollment for the next school session within the aforementioned parameters.

“Open enrollment isn’t going to solve everything, but it is one piece that I think can help us to continue making the progress and moving our district forward,” Rundle said in the webinar, adding that the district has experienced a decline in enrollment.

At the meeting, board members discussed open enrollment prior to taking their vote on the grades 8-12 proposal. President Deborah Lurie, Legislative rep Jody Lee and directors Cristina Martinez and Maggie Tai Tucker voted in favor of open enrollment while vice president Dan Glowitz cast an against vote.

“I make every decision with students first. I believe that in order to maintain the programs and opportunities that our current high schoolers have, we have to be looking at enrollment in another way,” Lurie said.

Lee weighed in on the process: “It’s been very gratifying for me to see the amount of actual fact-based research and fact-based thinking and decision making that goes into these things.”

Added Martinez: “I think that at this point in time, (it) is something that will help us.”

While discussing her support of open enrollment, Tucker said: “I think it’s to the benefit of our high school, the benefit of our students, the benefit of our teachers and I think it’s for the benefit of the district as a whole.”

Glowitz said that he strongly supports the fine arts, adding: “This is not, in my view, a choice between open enrollment and course curriculum, it’s pursuing additional enrollment in order to get additional revenue. Being blind, I think, to expenditures.”

MIHS student reps to the board Asha Woerner and Ava Zhang gave supportive advisory votes on both proposals placed on the table at the meeting. They said that students are open to diversity and welcoming additional students and dedicate themselves to creating a belonging environment at MIHS.

To view the full meeting, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPsAsH3RTtY