In July, a statewide open school enrollment program created eight years ago is scheduled to end, but some Central Oregon school districts, including Bend-La Pine, say this won’t change current student transfer practices much.
The open-enrollment program, enacted by the 2011 Legislature, allows students to transfer into a different school district without getting the permission of their current district — as long as the district they want to transfer to has space. A student who doesn’t transfer using open enrollment — or who wants to transfer to a district that doesn’t allow open enrollment — would have to use the old method and get both districts’ permission to switch, and that student’s parents would have to constantly reapply to remain in the new district.
Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, outlined the sunset of the program in an email sent to district superintendents and school principals Dec. 11. Gill said the current academic year would be the last school year for students to transfer through the open-enrollment program, although any student who already switched school districts using the program won’t have to leave. However, the Legislature could choose to extend the program’s sunset date past July during this year’s legislative session, Gill said.
The Bend-La Pine School Board will discuss the end of open enrollment at Tuesday night’s meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the school district office building.
Andrea Wilson, executive assistant to Bend-La Pine Schools’ superintendent and the school board, said ending the program won’t affect her district much because it hasn’t offered open-enrollment spots at Bend-area schools in the past five years, with buildings having reached maximum capacity.
This year, however, there were at least 40 open-enrollment spots available at La Pine-area schools. Districtwide, one student transferred into Bend-La Pine through the program and one transferred out, Wilson said.
The district has always tried to accommodate students who choose to transfer in or out the traditional way, and it will continue to do so, she said.
“The districts in Central Oregon have already been really gracious in allowing students to move between districts,” Wilson said. “Some of those districts in the higher-population areas, they have a harder time sometimes, but we’ve never run into a problem. Open enrollment might be a bigger deal in the metro areas than it is in Bend-La Pine or Redmond.
Crook County School District Superintendent Sara Johnson said her district also won’t feel much impact if the program ends. Although Crook County allows open enrollment, more students leave, typically for Redmond schools, than transfer to the district, she said, due to how isolated the Prineville area is.
“I’m not saying there’s (no transfers) in the system, but it’s not something we face every day,” Johnson said. “It virtually doesn’t happen. It’s more of a thing when districts butt up against each other, like in Monmouth; kids might want to transfer to Salem.”
She also agreed with Wilson, saying she’d never seen a school district refuse to let a student leave.
Culver School District Superintendent Stefanie Garber said because of her district’s small capacity, it hasn’t allowed open enrollment for at least two years.
“It didn’t seem worth it,” she said. “Normally, there’s a family and they have two or three kids, and we didn’t want to say, ‘Well, this one can go here, but the others would have to go to Redmond.’”
However, students who transfer into Culver the traditional way don’t have to constantly reapply to stay enrolled, as long as their grades and attendance are solid, Garber said.
Wilson added that in Bend-La Pine, students only have to reapply once they move from an elementary school to middle school, or middle to high school.
Jefferson County School District Superintendent Ken Parshall said his district had allowed open-enrollment transfers through this school year; although it would be accepting inter-district transfers only starting in July.
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