Decision based on idea that district would lose more students than it would gain

With a strong recommendation coming from the Estacada School District, the School Board voted at its January meeting against participation in Oregon's new open enrollment program.

This option would allow participating schools to accept transfers from outside of their districts, while also putting them at risk of losing students who would transfer to other districts.

The legislation, House Bill 3681, passed last summer, giving school boards the final authority.

'When all of the factors were weighed, we thought this was our safest option given our fiscal poverty,' Superintendent Howard Fetz said of his recommendation. 'We could easily have inherited several special education students and then we would have been responsible for paying for those kids without really having the money to do so.

'Every time a student leaves, it jeopardizes the programs and structure we have for the remaining students,' he said. 'This was not a tough decision, and in fact it is my belief that a majority of Clackamas County superintendents will advise their boards to do the same.'

Some School Board members did have background conversations with Fetz regarding the recommendation, but once the time came for a vote, the decision was unanimous.

'I think there is a lot of confusion in the general public about what this legislation means,' Fetz said. 'A lot of people took it at face value and didn't know that districts could say, 'yes' or 'no.'

'We have researched it with every legal interpretation we could find, and the fact is that families and students still have the possibility of transferring in or out of our district, but it's with the same method that has been in place for the last 25 years.

Under that old process, parents of a student could transfer if they had approval from the home district and outside district. The Estacada School District will stay with this process.

'Some people may not like it because they want to be able to go wherever they want, and while we don't blame them for that, we need to look out for the whole.'

Under the program signed into law in 2011, parents no longer need district approval as long as both districts are participating in the open-transfer program.

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