(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 21, 2013)
Ferndale Schools will be accepting fewer out of district students though the schools of choice program this fall thanks to a new policy limiting outside enrollment to 15%.
In the past there had been an unofficial policy of keeping it around 15%, similar to other districts, however the number has been exceeded. This year 16.8% of students in the general K-12 program came from other cities.
The move comes in response to feedback that school board members received in the last campaign cycle and since the new year began. Their hope is that with fewer outside students, more families that live in the district will chose Ferndale Schools.
The district will accept up to 43 new Schools of Choice students in grades K-3 only, compared to about 80 new students usually accepted each year in grades K-8.
Oakland Schools reported that 648 Ferndale district students were enrolled elsewhere in Schools of Choice and non-public schools in Fall 2011. The numbers for 2012 will not be released until April. The District is projecting 350 students for next year, with new enrollment spaces limited to 43 in grades K-3. Previously they allowed students up until 8th grade.
The enrollment targets only apply to general K-12 schools. The Digital Learning Center and University High School continue to accept students from outside of the District, from both Wayne and Oakland Counties.
The decrease in students comes with a $259,000 loss in revenue to the District. However, if district-based students could be wooed in, the loss could be reduced.
Ferndale School Board President Jim O’Donnell explained in a later interview that the district is making retention a priority. “The strategic plan now being developed will provide a comprehensive set of strategies for improving retention. Among the elements that I anticipate would include increasing academic achievement, improving school culture, and outreach to parents of pre-school and school-age children,” he said. “I am concerned with both revenue and with academic achievement. By retaining more current in-district and Schools of Choice students, we can maintain our overall enrollment even with a lower number of new Schools of Choice students. That is the best way to avoid reduced revenue. Of course, if we do not see higher enrollment, we will reduce expenses to balance our budget.
“The most significant part of the change is moving the enrollment grades in schools of choice from K-8 to K-3. This will set up our schools of choice students for maximum success. The longer a student is with Ferndale Public Schools, the better his or her academic results. We are not just focused on the number of schools of choice students, but with maximizing their opportunities for success by keeping them in our district for most of their public school years. That stability, of course, should make all of our students more successful through better peer relationships and school culture.”
The state report showing Schools of Choice enrollment for the prior school year can be found online here.