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Carroll considers open enrollment program

03/10/2013 10:59 PM

03/14/2013 2:38 PM

SOUTHLAKE -- Carroll school leaders are exploring the possibility of offering open enrollment to students who live within Southlake city limits, but are zoned to the Keller or Northwest school district.

"It's a big decision," said Julie Thannum, a spokeswoman for the Carroll school district.

The proposal could help bring state dollars to Carroll, but school leaders want to make sure it is a move that doesn't prove more costly in the long run. For example, the district needs to see if there are enough classrooms and teachers before deciding on a policy.

"We want it to be a positive," Thannum said.

Under the state's current funding formula, Carroll schools would get about $5,500 for every student who transfers using open enrollment.

"That's the reason districts are doing it," she said.

Read Ballew, school board president, said board members asked the administration to get a cost estimate so they can decide whether to hire a demographer to study enrollment trends and projections.

"That's pretty much the driver," Ballew said. "We have people who have requested it. It's worthy of consideration."

Trustees discussed the issue during a recent meeting and are expected to take up the topic again at upcoming meetings.

The district currently offers some transfers to students who meet certain criteria, such as being the children of district employees or participants in the Carroll Medical Academy.

The 2012-13 budget currently has an estimated shortfall of $1.6 million, a figure whittled down from an estimated $3.9 million deficit the district faced last fall.

The deficit is the result of state funding losses totaling $8 million, according to the district. The district met the shortfalls with some thrifty moves, such as not filling job openings. District employees also cut utility costs, Thannum said.

Ballew said the idea of bringing in transfers is in keeping with the district's theme: "Protect the classroom from budget cuts."

There are 7,688 students in Carroll schools, according to the district. About 87 percent live in Southlake. The Carroll school district also includes a portion of Grapevine and portions of several other cities.

Several area school districts allow some form of open enrollment.

Birdville, for example, has an open enrollment transfer program for residents and nonresidents of the school district. The Coppell school district has a program that allows students who live within the city but outside the attendance boundaries to attend their schools.

Thannum said Carroll officials are sometimes asked about transfers by families who live in Southlake but in different school districts. She said officials believe about 400 children would qualify for this limited open enrollment.

"There's really no way to know how many students would take us up on our offer," she said, adding that out-of-district students would have to provide their own transportation.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675

Twitter: @dianeasmith1

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