Number of nonresident students choosing to attend local public schools continues to grow
The Grafton School District continues to be an attractive educational option for nonresident families, drawing a growing number of students through open enrollment.
In a report to the School Board on Monday, Director of Special Education and Student Services Marty Armato said the district currently has 199 open-enrollment students, a record number for Grafton.
Although 77 students living in Grafton enrolled in other districts, the net number of 122 is also an all-time high locally, Armato noted.
Armato’s report noted that total open-enrollment and net numbers have continued to increase during the past seven school years, starting with 118 total students and a net of 70 in 2008-09.
Besides indicating the appeal of educational opportunities in Grafton to outside students, the numbers benefit the district financially, Armato said. Based on reimbursement of $6,635 per student, Grafton will receive an estimated $809,470 in state aid for open-enrollment registrants for 2014-15.
“We’re a plus 122, and that generates a lot of revenue,” Armato told the board.
Supt. Mel Lightner said the numbers underscore both the success and potential of the district’s educational mission.
“I think it certainly shows that Grafton is a very attractive district,” Lightner said Tuesday.
“There are a number of different reasons why students enroll in our schools, but part of it is because our test scores are good, we have some real quality teachers and programs, and we have a district that is going to continue to improve.”
Under state law, since the 1998-99 school year, Wisconsin students have been able to attend a public school of their choice if their parents or guardians comply with application requirements and are accepted by the district they select.
Grafton is currently drawing more open-enrollment students from most other area school districts than those districts are receiving from Grafton. Included are net gains of 46 from Port Washington-Saukville (67-21), 38 from Northern Ozaukee (43-5), 6 from Random Lake (7-1) and 3 from Mequon-Thiensville (4-1).
The one exception is the Cedarburg School District, which has 42 students from Grafton compared to 33 Cedarburg students attending Grafton schools.
Of the 77 Grafton students enrolled in other districts, 11 are attending virtual schools, including five within Northern Ozaukee.
“In those cases, we’re not really losing them to other brick-and-mortar schools,” Armato said.
Lightner said it’s difficult to quantify reasons why some districts are more successful in attracting open-enrollment students than others.
“There are a significant number of students who come for specific programs, but other families do so because of convenience, job situations and other factors,” he said.
A traditionally strong draw at Grafton High School is the award-winning automotive technology program headed by teacher Carl Hader.
“There’s no question that Carl’s program appeals to students throughout the area. It’s one of the best in the country,” Lightner said.
During the current school year, Grafton made 102 seats available for open enrollment and had 19 new students register through the process. Armato said there are also 28 students who moved out of Grafton but chose to continue attending school in the district.
For the 2015-16 school year, the board concurred with Armato’s recommendation to make 95 seats available for open enrollment, including 87 at the high school.
The open-enrollment period is from Feb. 2 through April 30.