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Solon looks at open enrollment caps

School board also continues facilities discussions

By Alex Kline
Solon Economist

SOLON– When do you decide to close the doors on open enrollment?
The Solon school board discussed options for open enrollment benchmarks at the Dec. 9 meeting. Superintendent Sam Miller presented a framework that set parameters at which open enrollment could be closed at each grade level.
Though the number wasn’t a flat rate, most grades close at five students before target capacities, a level approved by the board last year.
“We don’t get people beating down our door every day wanting to move into Solon or wanting to open enroll into Solon,” said Miller. “Our belief is that we think open enrollment is good for our district, we think it’s good for our community.”
Miller added that some of these grade levels depend on open enrollment to keep class size up. Lakeview’s first grade is one example of this, in which 25 students are open enrolled.
The framework Miller provided made some of the members uneasy about already bloated class sizes in some grades.
“I don’t have a good comfort level with this, especially with the lower grades,” said board member Dean Martin. “I don’t think it’s an ideal situation to be at our target on all our classes.”
Martin worried that closing open enrollment so late wouldn’t leave room for those moving into the district.
“Is that enough buffer or are you going to be running over the top?” Martin asked. “Our history has been telling us that we’re seeing a lot of open enrollment and I think if you go back and look at the total number of students that we have open enrolled in the district right now, it’s already forced us in to extra sections in some of these grades and will that happen in the future?”
Miller explained that certified enrollment had been fairly stagnant for the last five years, and even went down this year to 1,258 students, while open enrollment had grown.
“If there’s any action the board wants to take to giving us guidance we are more than willing to implement whatever framework the board wants to approve,” said Miller. “This was our attempt to manage open enrollment in a way that we feel adheres to the target sizes that the board established and also is respectful to the sections that the building is able to handle.”
March 1 is the deadline for open enrollment applications for next fall. With their busiest season for open enrollment approaching and decisions being made on new facilities, board members agreed that they needed to lock down a policy. Another discussion of open enrollment will take place at the Jan. 13, 2014, board meeting.
“To me if we are going to continue to discuss facilities going forward we have to continue to discuss open enrollment,” said Martin. “The two go hand in hand.”
Solon school board members also got another look at facility plans for a new middle school and additions to the high school at the Dec. 9 meeting.
The proposals, which were only slightly changed from the Nov. 25 work session, included costs for a second floor addition to the north side of the high school and a redesigned lobby for the auditorium.
“Cost wise, it actually had a fairly negligible impact when you backed up the parking and additional site work that we discussed wasn’t necessary,” architect John Darveau said. “So cost wise we are right in line.”
The updated costs for the additions to the high school were estimated over $7 million, nearly $1.5 million cheaper than the proposal seen at the previous work session.
Darveau also provided new costs for an expanded sixth through eighth middle school, with temporary capacity for fifth grade.
“It’s for a six [through eighth], but it’s made large enough to house your fifth grade right now,” Darveau said. “It’s actually a five through eight building that if you do a three through five center down the road it would allow you that expansion in the sixth through eighth category.”
The plan had a $15,634,225 price tag. Those costs for the middle school were totaled for a twenty-acre plot.
Near the end of the meeting, board members entered a closed session to discuss potential land transactions for sites designated to the two plans for the new middle school. Members expressed the need for a decision in last month’s work session.