School board votes to accept 180 transfers for 2014-15

Up to 180 new students from outside the West Linn-Wilsonville School District could transfer to district schools for the 2014-15 school year.

The school board approved the change following Deputy Superintendent Jane Stickney’s recommendation at the board work session Feb. FILE PHOTO - Up to 180 students will be allowed to transfer into WL-WV next year. Trillium and Lowrie, shown, will not accept transfers, and transfer students will not be allowed to enter the districts dual language program.

The board had voted during its regular February meeting to open enrollment for the third straight year, with Betty Reynolds registering the lone vote against. Her vote at that time was based on concerns about equity and the destabilizing effect open enrollment could have on school districts that are smaller than WL-WV or less desirable to families for various reasons, including funding. She reiterated those concerns at the work session.

Reynolds“I’ve made these comments before and I’m making them again,” Reynolds said. “Research shows that (open enrollment) does destabilize local education and student achievement can suffer.”

Reynolds also expressed concern about adding students to the district at a time when the board is contemplating putting a capital bond before voters, with a new middle school facility being the No. 1 capital improvement project on the district’s wish list.

“We’ve worked hard to get class size to effective levels,” Reynolds said. “It just seems like a mixed message, to open enrollment.”

In response, Superintendent Bill Rhoades said the district’s open enrollment policy has contributed to the district’s ability to maneuver average class size down.

“The local option is one of the pieces,” he said. “If it weren’t for the increased enrollment in the past few years, we wouldn’t have been able to add teachers. This actually helps us reduce class size.”

Income from the district’s local option levy has not rebounded from the recession, as local option taxes are based on home value and those have not yet recovered. Open enrollment can increase the amount of state school funding school districts receive, because the funding follows students to the district where they eventually attend classes. The district releasing the student loses the corresponding amount of state funding.

West Linn-Wilsonville so far has come out on the winning side of the finances. A total of 113 students transferred into the district this school year. Under a complicated formula known as Average Daily Measurement, weighted (ADMw), school districts receive per-student state school funding of $6,549, excluding transportation, per year. This school year’s count of 113 transfer students means that WL-WV received about $740,000 in additional state funding. Raising the number of transfer students to 180 could mean a potential increase in state funding of $1.17 million for WL-WV.

“The local option has not been helpful in adding teachers the last few years, because of compression,” Rhoades said. Compression refers to the effect of limitations attached to real estate taxes by Measure 5, passed by Oregon voters in 1990.

Noting that Reynolds had raised similar concerns about equity and open enrollment previously, board member Regan Molatore explained her reasoning for supporting the decision to open.

“We all wear many hats,” she said. “As a member of the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board, I’m responsible for doing what’s best for our school district. If this is a way of helping our goals of reducing class size, I think we have to do what’s best for our district.”

“It is policy,” Rhoades said. “We just try to make the best decision that we can.”

Board Chairman Keith Steele said the district’s policy of limiting open enrollment, both by the number of spaces allowed and by the schools that will accept transfers from outside the district, allows administrators to retain control of class sizes and keep an eye on school capacity.

“We’re not at this point saying we’re opening to 50 students at Wood, where we already have portables. ... If we have available capacity, that’s one thing,” he said.

WL-WV’s discussion of open enrollment comes on the heels of a report from Oregon Department of Education, released Feb. 11, showing Oregon K-12 enrollment at an all-time high. Statewide, schools this school year saw an overall increase of 0.6 percent over 2012-13 levels.

WL-WV is far above that state average. With a total enrollment of 8,707 students as of Dec. 31, 2012, WL-WV’s student population of 9,039 as of Dec. 31, 2013, represents an increase of approximately 3.8 percent.

By contrast, Oregon’s largest school district, Portland Public Schools, reported an increase of 1.14 percent.

by: FILE PHOTO - The school board accepted Deputy Superintendent Jane Stickney's recommendation to not allow transfer students to attend Arts and Technology High School, WL-WV's alternative school.By the numbers

The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board adopted Deputy Superintendent Jane Stickney’s recommendations regarding open enrollment for the 2014-15 school year. WL-WV will allow up to 180 students to transfer in from outside the district’s boundaries, including:

50 in kindergarten

50 in first through fifth grade

30 in sixth through eighth grade

50 in ninth through twelvth grade

Transfers will be considered for all WL-WV schools except Lowrie and Trillium Creek primary schools and Arts and Technology High School. Students transferring from outside the district would not be eligible to apply for the district’s dual language program.

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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