Open Enrollment School Pathway Determination

Introduction

In May of 2015, the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District worked on new policies related to balancing residential enrollment 4K-12 through school attendance areas.  Over the years, the intra-district transfer policy for resident students and the option to select a High School created an enrollment imbalance in our schools.  In February of 2016, the School Board adopted a set of new policies and an implementation plan that will work to balance both the open enrollment and resident enrollment in each of our schools.  

While residents use their address to determine the school their child attends, open enrollment students are assigned to a school pathway using a lottery system of available spaces.  Open enrollment students with siblings will be placed in the school the currently enrolled open enrollment sibling attends.

As a district, we feel that parents should know the path their child will follow while attending our schools.  These paths provide families with predictability regarding school attendance and are important to things like participation in youth athletics and extra-curricular activities.  

Open Enrollment

School Pathway Placement

Current Open Enrollment students

  • Continue in assigned school and follow school pathway to intermediate or high school:

New Open Enrollment students

  • Assigned a school pathway at time of enrollment:

 
Open Enrollment School Pathway Assignment

In the spring of 2016, the first group of students to receive their school pathway were the current open enrollment students in 4K, 5th and 8th grades. These students needed to know what school they would attend in the fall of 2016-2017.  They were placed using the guidelines listed above.

During the summer of 2016, the next group of students to receive their school pathway were the new open enrollment students to our district.  They were placed using the guidelines listed above and agreed to pathway when they accepted an open enrollment seat in our district.

During the fall of 2016, the last group of students to receive their school pathway were current open enrollment students who had not otherwise received a school pathway.  As was the case for all open enrollment students, the same guidelines were used.  Open enrollment students with siblings were placed in the school the currently enrolled open enrollment sibling attends.  If an open enrollment student did not have a sibling currently enrolled, the student was assigned to a school pathway using a lottery system of available spaces.    

Rationale Open Enrollment School Pathway Assignment

As open enrollment numbers are not balanced between schools, a strict feeder school placement system would continue to cause imbalance in years to come.  A lottery system of available spaces was used because it is a fair and equitable way to determine a school pathway and is critical to balancing open enrollment in our district.

A lottery system of available spaces was use to balance open enrollment because:

  • Resident families return to their neighborhood schools when their students transition to the next grade level.  It would not have been fair to guarantee open enrollment families a benefit (e.g., remaining with their current student cohort) that resident families do not receive (e.g., resident students return to their neighborhood schools at the time of transition.)

  • The home addresses of open enrollment students cannot be used to assign a school pathway as the majority of open enrollment families live east and north east of the school district.  Assignment to the closest school would continue to cause an imbalance of open enrollment in our schools.

  • A lottery was fair to all and most consistent with what resident families experiencing using Neighborhood School Attendance Areas.

Summary

Implementing Neighborhood Attendance Areas and balancing open enrollment has been a complex and multi-layered process.  Much thought has been given to each policy and procedure.  Like any school district, we do not want to disappoint families.  While we recognize this might be the case in particular situations, we feel the need to use a fair and equitable process to balance enrollment is of benefit to the larger school community.  

Open enrollment has been part of district policy for over a decade. The district offers seats in classrooms with available space using resources that have already been allocated thus generating additional funding for school programs.  In addition, it allows us to offer placement to families that have selected us as a destination district and agree to provide transportation for their children to attend school here.  We are proud to offer educational programming to families that choose to attend school in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District.