Sticking to their school of choiceStudents come and go with open enrollment
For approximately 16 years, North Dakota students have had a choice in where they go to school, thanks to the state’s open enrollment law. Under open enrollment, students can attend schools in districts other than the one they live in or currently attend.
By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
For approximately 16 years, North Dakota students have had a choice in where they go to school, thanks to the state’s open enrollment law.
Under open enrollment, students can attend schools in districts other than the one they live in or currently attend.
Minnesota’s 1988 open enrollment law was one of the first full open enrollment programs in the nation. Iowa and Nebraska adopted open enrollment programs in 1989 with North Dakota following in 1993, according to the South Dakota Legislative Research Council.
“Students who wish to go to another district will have to apply by March first to their desired district,” said Robert Marthaller, director of school organization and special projects for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. “The board of the admitting district has to then approve the application by April 1st, and generally they are approved.”
By law, schools participating in open enrollment cannot deny applications unless the admitting district has adopted policies that restrict enrollment, according to a DPI press release.
“At that point the admitting district essentially notifies the student and sends a copy of the application to the district of residence, and if both of the boards approve it’s pretty much a done deal,” Marthaller said. “It’s a pretty seamless process, and pretty simple really.”
Marthaller said the open enrollment process has become a rather common practice since it has begun.
“For one reason or another, it might be parents that work in one community and live in another, it might just be easier for them to have their children in the district where they are working,” Marthaller said. “There are a variety of reasons families might choose to participate in the open enrollment process.”
Vince Reep, business manager and director of personnel for Dickinson Public Schools, said in most cases he’s seen, the case for open enrollment is usually moving.
“In almost all of the transfers, they are related to parents moving, different jobs and careers, it isn’t a reflection of any schools in the district,” Reep said. “The biggest move in the state is to Bismarck. The biggest in is from Montana.”
Reep said that includes all students, not just those that are open enrolled.
According to DPS records, approximately 55 students have open enrolled into the school, dating back to 1997, while approximately 47 have gone out via open enrollment, although those records may not be completely accurate.
Karen Heidt, Administrative Assistant for Dickinson Public Schools, said in some cases admitting districts don’t notify them of the approval of the applications, and the school board does not take action on the outgoing open enrollment students, only incoming.
Riley Mattson, elementary principal and superintendent for South Heart School said they don’t see many moving in and out via open enrollment.
“We have some kids that go back and forth to Dickinson or New England or others,” Mattson said. “We do have a few, but nothing really significant. We probably get a couple three a year.”
Anita Woodbury of Killdeer recently open enrolled her children in Dickinson schools, which did not bring a change.
“The kids were already in school in Dickinson, and I bought a place outside of Killdeer, and the school called me and told me that since I had a Killdeer address I would have to apply for open enrollment, and I didn’t want to transfer them,” Woodbury said. “They (Dickinson Public Schools) really took care of it; there wasn’t much of an issue.”
Woodbury’s children, Jessica, 16, attends Dickinson High School, whereas Clayton, 13, attends Hagen Junior High. Both said they were glad they didn’t have to transfer, as they enjoyed their schools.
The application for open enrollment for both Jessica and Clayton were approved last March.
“I think it’s a good option for parents to have,” Anita said. “I think when you’re working in Dickinson, and your kids are in Killdeer in school, if there is a problem it takes you a half hour or better to get there.”
The Wert family, also of Dickinson and recently applied for open enrollment, and were in a similar situation when they moved to a subdivision four miles west of Dickinson earlier last year.
“It is actually the South Heart school district that we are living in,” Kim Wert said. “We were living in Dickinson, and I didn’t want to disrupt my children and move them to the South Heart School. They were set on staying in their schools. We just wanted to keep them there.”
Ron and Kim Wert have four children in Dickinson Public Schools, Austin, 14, who attends Hagen Junior High, Alex, 12, at Berg Elementary and Katie, 8, and Kami,6, who both attend Jefferson Elementary.
“It wasn’t a difficult process at all, all we did is get the paperwork from central administration, and I filled it out, sent it in and they let me know that it was approved,” Kim Wert said. “I think it’s a great option, especially for families that move around. For me as a parent, I think it gives children more opportunities.”
The deadline for open enrollment applications is March 1 and application forms can be obtained from either the district the child wishes to attend or from the district of residence. For more information visit the Department of Public Instruction Web site at www.dpi.state.nd.us.