Dackin: Open enrollment keeping district off ballot
Reynoldsburg's open enrollment program, started last year, is paying off in a big way.
Superintendent Steve Dackin said the second year of open enrollment may bring in more than $2.2 million to help keep the district off the ballot.
He said 400 students are taking advantage of the program this school year, which allows students who live in other districts to attend Reynoldsburg schools tuition-free. That number includes students who were in the program last year and renewed their participation this year.
Last school year, 195 students were in the open enrollment program.
Each student who enrolls in Reynoldsburg schools from outside the district brings in approximately $5,700 in state-aid dollars, Dackin said.
He said the district deliberately put limits on the program last year because it was a pilot year.
"This year, we opened it up more," he said. "We also have about 40 applications still pending, so we could end up with more than 400 for open enrollment this year."
Applications for open enrollment were not accepted after the first day of school, which was Aug. 19.
Reynoldsburg became the second school district in Franklin County to allow open enrollment when the school board approved the policy last May. Columbus City Schools have allowed open enrollment since 1998.
A number of residents who opposed the policy before it was approved joined a Facebook page called "Reynoldsburg Residents Against Open Enrollment," which swelled to 403 members in spring 2012.
Residents who spoke at several public forums held last year said they were worried that the policy would cause overcrowded classrooms and a decrease in property values.
Dackin, however, credits the program with keeping the district off the ballot for a longer period.
"If we get to 450 students in open enrollment, that would bring in well over $2 million and could be close to what 4 mills of property taxes would generate for the school district," he said. "That means the program could help keep us off the ballot longer."
Jamie Wilson, district coordinator for open enrollment, said 184 of the 400 open enrollment students were in the program last year. She said 31 are children of Reynoldsburg schools' staff members.
She said 176 students are enrolled in the elementary grades; 126 are in grades five through eight, and 98 are enrolled in the high school academies.
Wilson said there were 115 open enrollment students in elementary grades last year and only 23 open enrollment students were in high school level grades.
"We are really pleased going into this second year of open enrollment," Dackin said. "Families are coming to Reynoldsburg. I really like seeing the growth in enrollment at the elementary level.
"We have some really great principals, teachers and support staff and that is what draws families in," he said.
"If you put out a good product, enrollment will increase," board President Andrew Swope said.
According to the district's interdistrict open enrollment guidelines, no open enrollment application will be accepted if it would exceed district capacity limits for a grade level, school, program or class.
The policy also states, "The Superintendent or designee will determine such limits based on the district's staffing, finances and other relevant resources available at the time the transfer is sought."