Saline Area Schools will continue to use Schools of Choice to maintain enrollment in the district but this year, the district is focusing on adding students further along in their education.
The Board of Education unanimously approved the Schools of Choice recommendation made by Superintendent Scot Graden at the Feb. 25 meeting.
The policy calls for adding a minimum of 64 students up to 132 students from out of district. The district has a policy that allows nonresidents to comprise up to 10 percent of its population, which is about 5,250. The Schools of Choice program has allowed the Saline school district to maintain its student population even as resident enrollment has declined, allowing the district to maintain programming as school districts are mainly funded by the state on a per-pupil basis.
In addition, Graden said, non-resident schools add value to the district.
“Saline High School is attractive for a variety of reasons. Our existing non-resident students have added value to the district so I would hope that continues,” Graden said.
In the past, the district focused its schools of choice efforts on bringing non-residents at the kindergarten level. This year, the district hopes to bring in non-residents at the high school level.
“That does represent a shift from our previous policies,” Graden told the board.
Graden said the high school had more capacity to absorb schools of choice students.
Overall, the district seeks around the same level of non-resident students. But last year, the district only sought to bring in about 12 students at the high school level. This year, they’re looking at bringing in at least 31 students with a target of 41. Graduating classes continue to be larger than the next year’s freshman class.
With the recent growth in housing, the district wants to avoid creating pinch points at the elementary levels.
“If we were to continue bringing on students with the continued level of residential growth there’s potential for a pinch point at the fourth and fifth grade level from a facilities standpoint. We’d like to avoid that if at all possible,” Graden said.
Answering a question from Trustee Dennis Valenti, Graden said the district has about the same retention rate with Schools of Choice students as it does with resident students.
“We do not see a variation,” Graden said, noting many families with Schools of Choice students move to the district.
Answering a question from Trustee Michael McVey, Graden said the district typically gets about 130 Schools of Choice applications each year. The district will not advertise its Schools of Choice openings.
Schools of Choice applications will be open from the first week of May through the end of the school year. The schools of choice lottery, a blind draw based on a card system, will take place June 8 at the board room in Liberty School. Graden said only siblings of existing Schools of Choice students are given preference.
“We lottery siblings first and then we lottery non-siblings,” Graden said.
Saline accepts Schools of Choice students from Washtenaw County.