Open enrollment policies drive up student counts in suburban districts

2012-09-14T19:00:00Z 2012-09-15T16:13:03Z Open enrollment policies drive up student counts in suburban districtsCarmen McCollum, (219) 662-5337

While some urban school districts are seeing declining student enrollment, numbers are increasing in suburban districts, in some cases because of their open enrollment policies.

Friday marked ADM, or average daily membership, day. It's the official day when schools across the state count the number of students who are enrolled.

Average daily membership data collected Friday will help determine the per-student funding schools receive beginning in January, state officials said. Students who are enrolled but do not attend school on count day because of illness or any other reason still count toward their school's enrollment numbers, officials said.

As a result of a new law, the state will have a second count day Feb. 15, Indiana Department of Education spokesman Alex Damron said.

"Funding is not attached to the second count day," he said.

Sarah Castaneda, director of human resources for the School Town of Munster, said the district is up by 85 students, 42 of whom are tuition students. 

"We have always had open enrollment for the middle and high school students," she said. "Last year we opened it up to elementary. Altogether, we have 174 tuition students in Munster."

However, high school enrollment dropped slightly because the district inherited smaller class sizes from the middle school, she said.

The district also graduated more students in June. In 2012, Munster graduated just fewer than 400 students, she said. This year's freshman class is smaller at 365 students.

Munster charges tuition for students who live outside the district. The annual cost for elementary students is $2,300; middle school, $2,250; and high school, $2,362.

Porter Township School Corp. Superintendent Stacey Schmidt said the district is up by 30 students as a result of its open enrollment policy. She estimated the total number of students at just fewer than 1,600.

East Porter County School Corp. Superintendent Rod Gardin said the district is up by 16 students, continuing a nine-year trend. He said much of the growth can be attributed to the number of transfer students, who now number more than 100.

Earlier in the year most charter schools in the area estimated increased enrollment, including Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, Gary Lighthouse Charter School and Aspire Charter Academy.

Families across Northwest Indiana also are taking advantage of a voucher program and enrolling their students in private schools.

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