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School board re-examines open enrollment

District will present recommendations in February


Superintendent Bill Rhoades and his team at the district office are weighing the district’s options regarding House Bill 3681, which allows for open enrollment within the district.

The school board voted at its Jan. 14 meeting that Rhoades put together open enrollment recommendations.

“The staff has recommended we open enrollment again for the 2013-14 school year,” Rhoades said, noting district officials will announce their recommendations to the school board for consideration in February. “In our first conversations with school leaders we haven’t heard issues that would cause folks to say we shouldn’t do it again.”

House Bill 3681 was enacted by the 2011 Oregon Legislature and took effect Jan. 1, 2012. The bill provides an additional method of school choice for Oregon students. The bill does not remove Oregon’s traditional methods of interdistrict transfer, tuition and mutual district agreement. Local school districts have control over the decision of whether to accept students using any of the methods of interdistrict transfer.

School Board Member Betty Reynolds voted against the decision to move forward with enrollment recommendations. Reynolds mentioned several schools — including Bridgeport Elementary in the Tigard-Tualatin School District — which suffered student loss to the West Linn-Wilsonville School District.

“I think (House Bill) 3681 unfortunately does have a destabilizing effect on school districts and equity,” Reynolds said. “Before we submit an inquiry, we should talk to other districts and see if there is a voluntary pact where districts agree not to accept other students. ... I’d really like to see school districts not poach from one another.”

Last year, the West Linn-Wilsonville School District opened its doors to allow up to 50 students in kindergarten through first grade, 50 students in second through fifth grade, 50 students in sixth through eighth grade and 50 students in ninth and 10th grade.

Enrollment was closed, however, at Trillium Creek and Lowrie primary schools, Arts and Technology High School and in the dual language program. The district received 105 applications last year. Of the 105 applicants, 65 students attend school within the district.

If the school board approves open enrollment for the 2013-14 school year, openings will be announced March 1 and students will have until April 1 to apply.

“It is an annual conversion and an annual decision to be made,” Rhoades said. “We have until the end of February to determine everything.”

The school district has already received queries from out-of-district families. If approved, placement priority will be given first to nonresident students currently attending schools in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, second to interdistrict transfers and third to siblings of students currently enrolled at the requested school.

Nonresident students must first be accepted into the district, then offered a school placement. Families will be asked which schools they prefer but may be placed at a different school if there is no available opening at the preferred school. If there are more requests than space permits, the district will assign transfers by a computerized lottery.




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