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Open enrollment is a waiting game in Brodhead

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GINA R. HEINE
April 28, 2010
— Predicting school enrollment is a guessing game.

In Brodhead, arriving at a number for fall is even more difficult.


Fear that extracurricular activities would be cut after a February referendum failed pushed 146 students to apply to leave the district through open enrollment. How many will follow through and leave Brodhead schools is unclear.


“I really wouldn’t go out on a limb to make a prediction,” Superintendent Chuck Deery said.


Families have until June 11 to tell districts where they applied whether they will send their children there this fall.


Deery has heard from a lot of parents who said they will keep their children in Brodhead schools because extracurriculars will remain for at least next year. Some kids might leave for other reasons, such as class size or courses that were cut, he said.


For each student who leaves, the district loses $6,800. To close the resulting budget gap, the district would have to make more spending cuts, siphon money from the reserve fund or both, Deery said.


Brodhead should know after June 30 how many students it’s losing to open enrollment.


Where would they go?

Among the 146 Brodhead students who applied to leave, 24 are in elementary school, 28 in middle school and 94 in high school.


If families follow through on their applications to other districts, it appears Evansville and Monroe would get the most Brodhead students. The districts received 64 and 61 Brodhead applications, respectively.


Because students can apply to attend up to three nonresident school districts, application totals to districts surrounding Brodhead include many students who applied to more than one district.


Albany, Evansville, Juda, Monroe and Parkview school districts denied only five Brodhead applications—all of them for Evansville elementary grades that won’t have space, according to district officials.


All of the districts saw a significant spike in the number of applications, but officials said it is unlikely they’d see all of those students actually attend.


“Applying and actually attending are miles apart,” Albany Superintendent Steve Guenther said. “(I) told the board not to count on any of them. … I know people are worried and upset, but the reality is it’s a whole different ballgame to leave a district and go somewhere else.”


Parkview rarely gets any applications from Brodhead students, but this year the district received 49, Superintendent Steve Lutzke said.


“They were pretty evenly distributed from 4k up to 12th grade,” he said. “We usually anticipate that it’s about half of what apply end up coming. This is an unusual situation.”


In addition to 49 applications from Brodhead, Parkview received 12 applications from other districts.


“I wouldn’t think we’d get half of the 61,” Lutzke said.


Applications show families moving one child would transfer all of their children, he said.


Families who open enroll are responsible for transportation to and from school.


Overall picture

Before the Feb. 16 referendum, the Brodhead School Board said it likely would cut sports and other extracurriculars if the referendum failed.


When voters shot down the referendum, a flood of families applied for open enrollment to meet the Feb. 19 deadline.


The school board decided to take extracurriculars off the cut list for the 2010-11 school year after hearing community concerns and seeing the open enrollment numbers.


No decisions have been made on cuts for following years, however.


Jim Matthys, Brodhead’s athletic director and football coach, and Dan Calhoon, choral director for Brodhead middle and high schools, haven’t heard of any of their students planning to leave.


“I don’t know of anybody that is planning on leaving, although there may be (some),” Matthys said.


Students who have completed their freshman year would be free to transfer without any athletic eligibility issues, but students who have completed their sophomore year or higher would have to sit out of sports for a calendar year, he said.


Included in the potential extracurricular cuts would have been the Brodhead show choir, which typically is composed of juniors and seniors.


“I’m thinking and hoping that my kids are going to stay and stick with it,” Calhoon said.


Many of the show choir students also play at least one sport, so he knew of about seven to 10 of his students who had applied to leave.


“I’m hoping they stay,” he said. “I can’t imagine watching my kids sing and dance somewhere else.”



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