The Reynoldsburg school district is exploring whether to offer tuition-free open enrollment as a way to increase revenue.

The Reynoldsburg school district is exploring whether to offer tuition-free open enrollment as a way to increase revenue.

Superintendent Steve Dackin brought up the idea at the March 20 school board meeting.

Offering an interdistrict open-enrollment policy would generate $5,700 in state aid per pupil, he said.

Currently, about 40 students who live in Reynoldsburg attend school in other districts through open enrollment, Dackin said.

In those cases, he said, state aid money follows each child to other districts.

Columbus City Schools have offered open enrollment since 1998. The practice is a two-edged sword: CCS welcomed nearly 500 students from other districts through March, bringing in about $2.8 million, according to information from the state. However, the South-Western City Schools district lost $1.4 million in state dollars when 253 students moved to other districts this year. Some 133 went to Columbus, according to the state.

SWCS Treasurer Hugh Garside said the district can't easily cut spending in proportion to the lost revenue.

For instance, losing one child from every classroom in a 20-room building would not mean that fewer teachers are needed but would result in a $100,000 loss, he said.

Dackin said offering tuition-free, inter-district open enrollment could be one way to generate new revenue while offering parents living outside the district the opportunity to have their children take advantage of what Reynoldsburg schools has to offer.

"Increasingly parents have a myriad of opportunities to educate their children, and it doesn't have to be in the public school district in which they reside," he said. "I think Reynoldsburg city schools can compete with anybody. Now we have good learning space available and I think the time is appropriate to take a look at this as an option."

Dackin said Reynoldsburg has offered intra-district open enrollment for years, meaning a student can enroll in another school in the district if there is room.

Any student can enroll in another district -if the accepting district offers inter-district open enrollment. However, Reynoldsburg has not offered that option to students living outside the district, he said.

Doing so could generate new revenue for the district, although how much in uncertain, Dackin said.

Although the board of education has yet to take action on approving an inter-district open enrollment policy, board President Andy Swope said doing so would at least give students living outside the district the option of attending class in Reynoldsburg.

"They might feel that they don't want to move but want to be afforded the programs that Reynoldsburg is offering," Swope said.

Board member Sandy Long suggested a town meeting should be set up sometime before the board's April 17 meeting for parents and the community to discuss the matter further.

Board member Ryan Brzezinski said if the option is to be approved by the board, there should be certain criteria set up for students wishing to enroll from outside the district. Such conditions might include verifying discipline records and grade point averages, he said.

Dackin said if the policy were to be approved by the board, guidelines and a process for applying would have to be identified.

"We would have to have an open timeframe by which people could apply, a beginning date and an ending date, as well as guidelines put in place. But that all has yet to be determined," Dackin said. "I will tell you we wouldn't accept any students that have been suspended or expelled, or any student that would cause us to add a new program that would cost additional money.

"It would also have to be based on where we have the capacity to accommodate them," he added. "There are some elementary schools, such as Summit Elementary, that don't have room - but those are some of the things we'll have to look at if the board approves the policy."

Columbus Dispatch reporter Charlie Boss contributed to this story.