Students who want to attend Canal Winchester schools through the district's open- enrollment program have until the end of May each year to apply.

But it doesn't matter how many applications are received -- the district limits its open enrollment to 100 students. Ninety-five attended Canal Winchester schools from other districts last year through open enrollment, and the number is expected to be around the same for the 2018-19 school year.

"The limited open enrollment number is based on how many students we can absorb without costing the district money, i.e. hiring new staff," Superintendent James Sotlar said. "I don't see the number increasing in the future."

The enrollment cap, combined with free tuition offered to the children of teachers and staff members, means Canal Winchester doesn't see the kind of financial return from open enrollment that Reynoldsburg receives.

Treasurer Tammy Miller told the Reynoldsburg Board of Education in May the district has about 700 students in its open enrollment program, generating about $4.2 million a year -- equivalent to a 5.6-mill operating levy.

Canal Winchester's figures aren't nearly that robust.

"In fiscal year 2018, we brought in $525,694 from open-enrollment students," Sotlar said. "We paid out $348,040 to open-enrollment students to other districts."

So the "net gain" for the district was $177,654, he said.

Sotlar said the funds help to "offset the cost of students going to community schools and open enrolling in other districts."

"It allows us to receive full funding for staff members' students who open enroll, and it gives a limited opportunity for other students to receive an education for Canal Winchester Local Schools," he said.

Open enrollment was first available in the district in 2015; that year, 71 students took advantage of it.

There is no guarantee students' acceptance into the program will extend from year to year. Board policy states that to be eligible for open enrollment, students must "meet the standards established by the board of education for district students."

As a result, their achievements and conduct are reviewed each year.

The board policy also establishes admission priorities: Students already in the district have top priority to fill open-enrollment spots.

Second preference goes to students who have parents working for the district. Based on negotiated agreements with teachers and staff, those students are able to attend Canal Winchester schools tuition-free. Last year, 40 students fell into this category, Sotlar said.

Students previously enrolled in the district are given the next preference for open enrollment and new students applying are last on the list.

Emily Adams, a STEM teacher at Winchester Trail Elementary School, lives in the Amanda Clearcreek Local Schools district. Two of her daughters have been enrolled in Canal Winchester schools since they entered preschool, and she hopes to add a third daughter this year.

Adams said one of the reasons she applied for open enrollment is the project-based learning the district offers, which she said gives students an opportunity to learn through real-life experiences and applications.

"My husband and I are really glad we did it," Adams said. "My daughters come home and talk about their projects. They feel close to their teachers, and it's been a good choice for us."

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