The Verona Area School District will have 10 kindergarten spots for students to open-enroll in for the 2020-21 school year.
The school board’s decision at its Monday, Jan. 27, meeting was against the VASD administration’s recommendation of allowing no open enrollment for K-5 students. Administrators warned that the shifting attendance boundaries that will take effect for fall 2020 could change school populations. But board members appeared to be swayed by the testimony given by an open enrollment parent who spoke during the open comment portion meeting.
Stoner Prairie Elementary School parent Macarey Reimer said the school has provided her first-grade daughter with an environment where she feels safe and loved, and she would like to see her son, who will be a kindergartener in fall 2020, have the same experience.
“We don’t want to leave Stoner Prairie or have our kids split up at different schools next year,” she said. “I just think that keeping kids together is useful and can only be positive for families and the district.”
That’s a total of 62 open enrollment spots, 29 more than the previous year. Each grade at both middle schools gets five open enrollment spots, with another 10 for freshmen, six for sophomores, four for juniors and two for seniors.
Siblings get priority over other students. Parents wanting open enrollment for their student can request which school their child attends, but district staff makes the final call on where those students attend based on available space.
The board agreed there should be spaces available at the kindergarten level to allow for siblings of current open enrollment students to join them in the district, though some members agreed it would be good to let schools instead adapt to the new attendance boundaries for a year.
Board member Tom Duerst said he understood both arguments but ultimately felt the district should do what it’s historically done by allowing some spaces for kindergarteners.
“I question whether we couldn’t at least have some spaces for kindergarteners with the hope that your sibling would be the one using them up, and let the administration deal with it,” he said.
Board member Meredith Stier-Christensen said when it comes to making a decision between allowing open enrollment or closing it off, she preferred to do what is best for the students and their families.
“I know we have a weird year coming up,” she said. “We haven’t had an overwhelming demand for open enrollment for siblings, so since we have a small request, I think approving a number that would accommodate grandfathered siblings is permissible.”
Initially, school board president Noah Roberts had suggested allowing five open enrollment spots for kindergarteners, arguing that between four neighborhood schools and three charter schools, the district could find a place for them.
Under state law, school districts are required to approve the number of open-enroll students it will accept each year in January. Open-enroll students who are accepted into the program as elementary school students only need to reapply once as they enter middle school.