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School board considers who can enroll in Lake Oswego schools


Work session sets stage for decisions to come possibly as early as Monday

The Lake Oswego School Board and district administration continued to discuss enrollment policy for the short and long term at a work session Tuesday morning.

Though no official decisions can be made in a work session, by meeting’s end board members had come to similar conclusions about what front to present at upcoming board meetings — on some issues at least.

Under House Bill 3681, Oregon’s open enrollment law that went into effect last year, a school district may choose to accept transfer students without first receiving approval from the student’s home district after annually determining the number of open enrollment slots that will be available for the following school year. Students accepted via open enrollment are then considered resident students and the district receives the state funding allocated to each student.

Last week, LOSD Superintendent Bill Korach announced that he was leaning toward not pursuing open enrollment, but first wanted to confer with the school board and get their points of view before making an official recommendation.

Board member Linda Brown said, “While it is very helpful and advantageous to us to have more students, when they come with state funding that is less than what we spend per student, it’s not necessarily an asset,” and for that reason, she said, “I am reluctant to embrace open enrollment as per the current legislation for this coming year.”

Board member Patti Zebrowski, on the other hand, said that when it comes to open enrollment, “I would be willing to make investments and take a few risks ... because we have a high school that we’re trying to build up, and we need to invest in it,” in reference to Lakeridge High School’s comparatively low enrollment.

But board Chairman John Wendland said that although “It would be a good idea to have open enrollment at sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th grade at West Linn-Wilsonville area,” he was “kind of agreeing with Linda that maybe it’s not a good idea that we open it up too much.”

In addition to West Linn, the board has been considering whether to open enrollment in an area outside the Lake Oswego School District, whose students attend Jackson Middle School and Wilson High School in the Portland school district instead.

Initially, Wendland put forth the notion of allowing those students to come to the Lake Oswego School District by coming to Lakeridge High School, though it is farther away from the affected area than Lake Oswego High School.

Brown, however, said, “I believe that the little strip of Lake Oswego city that is in the Portland school district, I would be in favor of continuing our agreement with tuition basis, but half tuition, so that those students who are paying Lake Oswego taxes but happen to be in Portland public schools ... have the option of coming to either high school.”

One way or another, by March 1, the school board must disclose the terms of the district’s open enrollment policy for the 2013-14 school year, if it chooses to engage in open enrollment at all.