Trustees Discuss Possibility of Open Enrollment

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At the March 30 work session and prompted by ongoing budget planning discussions, trustees discussed the initial benefits and drawbacks of changing district policy to permit families outside of RISD boundaries to enroll in RISD schools (known as open enrollment). Key points of the discussion about potential changes included:

  • Becoming an open enrollment district would require a Board vote to change district policy. The discussion was informational, and no vote was taken or is currently planned. Trustees requested additional information in order to resume the discussion at a future meeting.
  • Open enrollment would permit families living within RISD boundaries and a limited number of families residing outside of RISD to apply to enroll in RISD schools where space is available. Families living within RISD boundaries would be prioritized, and students approved to enroll under this policy would be required to meet/maintain grade, attendance, discipline and STAAR requirements.
  • RISD loses students each year to other school districts that offer open enrollment, including Garland, Dallas, and charter schools, as they offer a variety of different choice programs that can appeal to some former RISD families. The primary rationale for open enrollment is that it could allow RISD to keep more families in RISD and attract some families currently outside the district that would prefer RISD to other options.
  • As previously discussed in budget planning, RISD is facing a substantial operating budget deficit for 2023-24, enrollment has declined, and is projected to continue to decline per the most recent demographic update. The enrollment decline has contributed to RISD operating significantly less efficiently than most peer districts due to smaller elementary schools, which are more costly to operate on a per-student basis. RISD has available capacity at secondary schools and many elementary schools, and adding additional students to underutilized schools generates additional income without necessarily requiring additional costs. Students enrolling from out of district would not qualify for district-provided transportation.
  • Under the potential policy, RISD would make limited open enrollment available at schools that are underutilized, while reserving space for families who live or move into a school’s attendance boundaries.
  • In addition to considering open enrollment, RISD is currently researching what additional programs of choice would appeal to current RISD families as well as former RISD families that departed the district to enroll in different educational options.

If trustees move forward, the district would utilize the initial open enrollment year (2023-24) in a limited way, allowing time to perfect the system and guidelines while additional choice programs can be considered for 2024-25. No decision or vote has occurred, and RISD will bring additional information to trustees at a future meeting to continue the discussion.

Watch the discussion

Learn more about 2023-24 budget planning

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