Ann Arbor approves Schools of Choice, weighs future changes
The Ann Arbor school district will welcome non-resident students for a third year as a means of increasing revenue.
The Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of the administration’s recommendation to open 170 seats for Schools of Choice.
Open seats will be divided among Abbot, Bryant, Carpenter, Dicken, Eberwhite, Lakewood, Logan, Northside, Pittsfield, Pattengill, Thurston, Clague, Forsythe, Scarlett and Slauson.
There will be 40 total seats available in grades kindergarten through first, 10 in second through fifth and 50 in sixth.
Ann Arbor Public Schools saw a slight increase in the number of Schools of Choice applicants for 2010-11 to 2011-12. However overall, the district had fewer interested families than open seats both years.
The first year, Ann Arbor offered 150 Schools of Choice spots for kindergarten, first and sixth grades only. AAPS received 99 applications, with 72 students enrolling and eight moving into the district by fall or shortly thereafter.
Jane Landefeld, director of student accounting and administrative support, said families indicated not having seats open at all elementary grade levels created difficulties for siblings and likely deterred applicants.
Seats in grades two through six were added in 2010. There were 133 applicants for 170 spots. Ninety-five students enrolled and 11 changed their residency.
Schools of Choice students bring with them the per-pupil allotment of their home districts. Landefeld said schools surrounding Ann Arbor have an average allotment of about $7,000 per-pupil from the state. So adding 170 Schools of Choice students could generate an additional $1.19 million in revenue for AAPS.
Trustee Andy Thomas said he is OK moving forward this year with the same Schools of Choice plan as last year, but he would like to see Ann Arbor give fresh consideration to opening up seats at the middle and high schools.
He said now that Skyline is full and the other two comprehensive high schools have begun to decompress, the capacity should be there to offer a few seats at each secondary grade level.
Landefeld said Schools of Choice has less to do with capacity and more to do with staffing.
“The intent with Schools of Choice was never to add staff,” she said. “That would defeat the purpose of doing Schools of Choice as a revenue enhancer.”
She explained adding 25 elementary pupils is the equivalent of one teacher or classroom, but adding 25 middle or high school students "plays a little differently" because students take five classes and have multiple teachers.
Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Alesia Flye said opening up the district to Schools of Choice at the secondary level would be much more complex and require the analysis of course availability and scheduling. Additionally, AAPS has two schools — Community and Ann Arbor Open — that operate on a lottery system for admission, she said.
Flye said the district has begun to study this concept of secondary Schools of Choice but developing an adequate course of action will take time.
Landefeld added the district also would need to consider opening up the middle and high schools to in-district transfers if it opened them up to students outside AAPS.
Families will have a 30-day window to apply for Schools of Choice through AAPS from April 16 to May 16. Applicants will be notified of their enrollment status by May 31.
Applications will be made available at the administration building at 2555 S. State St. and on the district’s website.
The Schools of Choice resolution originally was up for first reading at Wednesday’s board meeting. However, because the trustees were obviously in consensus about moving forward, President Deb Mexicotte accepted a motion to move the item to “special briefing” and place it on the consent agenda.
The board decided to vote on the issue so families could start preparing if they were interested in the Schools of Choice option through AAPS.
For more information on Ann Arbor's Schools of Choice program and to view what was approved last night, click here.