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DPS open enrollment concludes

In an effort to curb some of the growth at Dickinson Public Schools, open enrollment has been closed to any further applications. But one potential freshman addressed the board with a special case at Monday’s meeting at the Central Administration Building.

Heidi Jazwa, a Hope Christian Academy eighth-grader, asked the board herself if they would allow her to attend Dickinson High School next year with her friends.

Heidi said she was bullied at South Heart School, and escaped the situation by attending Hope Christian. Her mother, Kandy, a single parent, cannot afford further tuition at Hope Christian’s new high school and, even if she could, it doesn’t offer the classes Heidi wants to take.

Baring enrollment at DHS, Heidi would be required to attend South Heart once again, or likely open-enroll to Belfield, where she knows no one.

“After two-and-a-half years at South Heart, it got so bad for me that I usually sat alone at lunch, often hid out in the bathroom and I started missing school a lot,” Heidi said. “I would often leave early because I felt sick. I would wake up dreading going to school. I couldn’t concentrate in class knowing they were staring at me.

“I cried so much over those two years.”

Heidi finally found peace when her mother enrolled her at Hope Christian.

“This wonderful situation is about to change because all my friends are going to DHS for their freshman year,” Heidi said. “When my mom told me that you were closing the doors to out-of-town kids like me, I died. Just when I finally was enjoying school and having a real friend there, I’m told — because of where I live — everything I need, I can’t have.

The board commended Heidi for addressing the issue herself.

“It’s very brave of you to come up and sit in front of us,” board member Leslie Ross said. “Thank you for sharing something so personal.”

Heidi’s plea brought up a deeper question: When can the board allow special cases for open enrollment?

Because Heidi has been attending school in Dickinson and was bullied at her geographically assigned public school, there might be room in the code, Assistant Superintendent Vince Reep said.

“Do we look at this as just a case of a parent being unable to afford, and then, do we open up another gate where we have other families coming in having financial hardships?” board member Morton Krieg said.

The board did obtain a letter confirming the bullying from South Heart Schools.

“That was one of my concerns,” board president Kris Fehr said about the documentation. “I asked that this information be provided.”

Board members expressed a want to let Heidi in, but were worried about the consequences.

“We’re here to ensure that kids get a good education in a safe environment and we have an opportunity if the rule of law allows to have this as a special case — and we treated it as such,” Ross said. “We have room for this child at this point in time — for one child. We’re never going to get a second opportunity here.”

The board did deny three requests for kindergarteners to come into the district next fall, but held off on its decision about Heidi. They said more research needs to be conducted to see if exceptions could be made for special cases.

“It just gives us this girl an opportunity for us to do all that we can to make it right going forward,” Ross said. “If we can’t, based on the rule, then we can’t, but we tried. I would be OK with that.”