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Yellow Springs Schools’ open enrollment acts as a stabilizer

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This year Yellow Springs schools currently have the highest enrollment the local district has seen since 1984. However, 23 percent of the students are commuting to Yellow Springs from their homes in other districts. That number of open enrollment students is also the highest it has been in the district’s history. 

The Yellow Springs school board briefly discussed the enrollment data at their meeting Thursday, Nov. 13. While no decisions came out of the discussion, Superintendent Mario Basora noted that the maximum percentage of open enrollment students the district allows is 33 percent. He recommended that, while the school may have spot capacity for several more students, the district should “probably put a freeze” on admitting additional OE students and take time to consider the kind of district and the total size the local schools want to be. 

“I think we should pause for the moment and let the board consider this,” Basora said during the meeting.

Overall district enrollment has declined over the past 40 years, but the trend has been stemmed due to the rise in open enrollments. In 1976 the district had 945 students, a number that declined slowly but steadily to the 800s in the 1970s, the 700s in the 1980s and slipped into the 600s by the 1990s. Though the local enrollment continued to decline to between 550 and 600 students, the overall district population has since risen back into the 700s, this year settling at 743, an increase almost entirely due to growth in open enrollment.

In 1994, the district began allowing students from other districts to open enroll in Yellow Springs. That year 25 students from surrounding districts attended village schools. They made up 4 percent of the district population. The following year 40 students open enrolled, and five years later 66 were coming. By 2004 the OE population hit 101 and has grown steadily to reach 174 this year, or 23 percent of the district population. 

The majority of students who open enroll at Yellow Springs come from large districts in the surrounding area, some of which suffered severe budgets cuts during the recession. For example, 55 students came from Xenia, whose board reduced its budget by $11 million dollars, or one fourth, in 2012. And 41 students came from Greenon, 30 from Springfield City Schools, 15 from Cedar Cliff schools and a few each from Huber Heights, Beavercreek, Dayton City, Clark Shawnee and Northeastern. 

Basora pointed out other trends and surprises he discovered in the enrollment data. Of interest or possible concern is that 2014–15 brings the lowest number of in-district students in about four years. This year’s Xenia student count is the highest the district has had, which is 13 more than in 2013. The number of Springfield and Greenon students is also significantly higher than in the previous year. 

A steady number of Yellow Springs students also choose to leave the local public schools for other districts or schooling alternatives. This year, 104 local students chose not to enroll in the local public district, on par with the past four years. The biggest draw away from the district each year is the Antioch School, a private school that has enrolled an average of 25–30 Yellow Springs students in grades K–6 over the past four years. Home schooling, which accounts for an average of 20 local students each year, is the next most common choice for local families. Greenon, which enrolls an average of 12 local students each year, is also popular, along with private schools St. Brigid, Carroll and Miami Valley, each of which tend to draw about five village students each year. The Dayton STEM School, a public charter, has drawn more Yellow Springs students each year since it opened and this year is educating 12 Yellow Springs youth.  

Responding to questions from school board member Steve Conn, Basora also reported that the district is near capacity but does have space in some grade levels at Mills Lawn and McKinney, and in certain classes at the high school. According to MLS Principal Matt Housh, the elementary school could take about 15 more students if it filled certain classrooms with just over 20 students. YSHS Principal Tim Krier said the secondary school could also accommodate more students by increasing some classes by a section.  

Conn suggested that the district think about the ideal size student body for the Yellow Springs district and also inquire into why students open enroll here and why Yellow Springs kids choose to enroll elsewhere. Basora pointed out that the local district also enrolls a significant number of students who are eligible for the free and reduced cost lunch program; 40 percent of MLS students and 34 percent of McKinney/YSHS students qualify.

In other school board business:

• The district completed an emergency response training session on Friday, Nov. 7, using a protocol known as the ALICE Response Program. The program was established to increase in-building response options in the case of an active shooter. The acronym stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, in no particular order. The training was for teachers and staff, many of whom requested that the school provide additional training for emergency situations. 

In the process of updating its district-wide emergency response plan, the district is also considering, at the request of many teachers, regularly locking doors to all school facilities and placing cameras and buzzers at entrances. The district plans to hold a community meeting to further discuss the options at a date to be determined soon. 

• Basora was selected to lead a discussion among the Ohio Innovative Learning Network’s 18 districts about the state testing waiver for the 2015–16 school year. The group aims to develop an official position on the direction innovative schools should be heading in the future.

• The board approved the YSHS senior trip to Savannah, Ga. from April 14 to 18, 2015. The board also approved the eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C. April 29–May 2, 2015. 

• The board plans to consider its teacher tenure policy, as one district teacher is currently in the process of applying for tenure.

• Jordan Glaser, Branson Pyles and Sam Thornton were approved as ninth-, eighth- and seventh-grade boys basketball coaches, respectivel`y; and Kathy Patterson as eighth-grade girls’ basketball coach. All are compensated $1,259 except Glaser, who receives $1,573. Troy Patterson is a volunteer coach. 

The board also approved class advisors Christy Lewis for the freshman and junior classes, at a stipend of $1,118; and volunteer Christina Rowe for the eighth grade. 

Substitute teacher Christine Gustafson-Bold was approved. 

• Board member Sean Creighton is helping to plan a TEDX Youth event in Dayton in 2015 and is looking for students to help organize it.

 

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Yellow Springs Schools’ open enrollment acts as a stabilizer

by Lauren Heaton