Open enrollment provides feedback to school districts

Enrollment numbers for the 2012-2013 school year were released just a few weeks ago, and the figures can impact a school district in many ways.

The most important of those numbers - open enrollment. It not only shows how many parents are choosing to send their children to a certain district, but it can also impact funding.

But if the numbers out are higher than the numbers in, how does that affect a district?

"I think we look at it as an overview... [a] lot of times those things are out of our control, whether they open enroll out or in, based upon circumstances that are out of our control," said Kevin Crall, superintendent of the Albia Community School District. "I think we try and focus on being the best school district we can be and if students and parents choose to go somewhere else, that's their freedom."

For the 2012-2013 school year, a district will receive $5,583 per student who open enrolls in - which can make a big impact on district programs and finances.

"If you figure roughly $6,000 a student, that's a lot of money and that helps our programs,' said Fred Whipple, interim superintendent at Pekin Community School District.

For this year, Pekin saw 60 students enroll in and 23 enroll out. Albia saw almost the exact opposite, with 24 in and 60 out. But both superintendents say open enrollment isn't black and white and students opting to enroll out isn't necessarily a negative reflection.

"Well, you now there's a number of factors that parents decide that they want to open enroll in or out, sometimes it's beyond our control as far as geography, they may work in a different community and choose to have their child go to school in the same community they're working in, or they might look at various programs," Crall said. "Our trends are going a little better in the past few years, bringing more students back in the district, but we can always do a better job keeping our students here, that's for sure."

"If we were more located closer to Ottumwa or closer to Fairfield, we would even see more open enrollment," Whipple said. "Because I think the image of this district is just superb and the factor that hurts us is it is a drive for everyone. So it is what it is, it's a great school, great place and the numbers verify that we're doing great things."

Both superintendents said their districts have some great initiatives going on -- Pekin a new kitchen and lunch program and Albia a one-to-one initiative for the classroom.