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Posted on Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Data show fewer students apply to Skyline, while Community High's waitlist continues to grow

By Danielle Arndt


Skyline High School's magnet programs and trimester schedule are up in the air for fall 2013, due to the district's budget deficit. It is unclear how open enrollment applications to the school will be impacted by the uncertainties.

Daniel Brenner | file photo

Previous coverage:

Thursday and Friday are the final days for Ann Arbor to apply for out-of-boundary seats at Huron, Pioneer, Skyline and Community high schools.

Freshmen who live within the Ann Arbor Public Schools district can apply to any of these high schools this year, regardless of the high school attendance area in which they live.

Officials opened enrollment at Huron and Pioneer to 25 out-of-boundary students through in-district transfers for the first time. Skyline and Community again have open seats, 100 and 114 respectively, for fall 2013.

The deadline for students to apply to Huron and Pioneer is Thursday and the deadline for Skyline and Community is Friday. At Community, students are selected via lottery. A lottery also will take place at Huron, Pioneer and Skyline if more students apply than there are seats available.

Skyline sophomores hoping to participate in one of Skyline's four magnet programs also must apply by Friday.

Skyline's magnets and the school's structure for fall are in limbo due to the district's impending budget cuts.

Ann Arbor Public Schools faces a deficit of about $17 million for the upcoming school year. District officials have proposed changing Skyline from a trimester schedule to semesters like Ann Arbor's other comprehensive high schools.

It is unclear how the uncertainly of the trimester schedule and magnet programs could affect the number of applications Skyline receives for fall. However, the number of out-of-boundary students applying to and enrolling at Skyline has declined consistently since the school opened.

In 2008, 221 students applied to Skyline via in-district transfers; 100 students eventually enrolled. By 2010, there were 164 applications and 94 enrollees. For the current school year, 113 out-of-boundary students applied to attend Skyline and 72 enrolled.



District spokeswoman Liz Margolis said the district does not have any measureable data to support why Skyline's applications have decreased over time. She said it is hard to say because often students will put their names in at Community and Skyline, or one of the area's private schools; see where they are accepted; and then make their decisions.

In-district transfer students are responsible for providing their own transportation, so that also could play a role in whether an applicant ends up enrolling, Margolis said.



Thomas Pachera, lead teacher for the Design, Technology and Environmental Planning (DTEP) magnet at Skyline, said the school's magnet programs do draw a number of open enrollment applicants. Many students apply as freshmen with the sole motivation of wanting to join a magnet as sophomores, he said.

He added the newness of the school, physical appearance of the building and technology access at Skyline also could be factors in someone choosing Skyline in lieu of another high school.

Currently, there are 432 students in Skyline's magnet programs: 121 in Health and Medicine; 108 in Business, Marketing and Information Technology; 104 in Communication, Media and Public Policy; and 99 in DTEP.

Thirty new students per magnet are accepted each year. If more than 30 apply, a lottery is conducted to fill the seats.

For the 2009-10 academic year, 335 students applied to one of Skyline's magnets. In 2011-12, 170 sophomores applied and prior to the 2012-13 year, there were 270 applications, according to data provided by the district.

Community High School received a record number of applications last fall, 440. Community, unlike Ann Arbor's three comprehensive high schools, is entirely a choice school. There is no residence boundary for Community.

To apply to Community, students must attend an orientation meeting. The last orientation meeting is scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday at the school. Community's random lottery drawing will take place Tuesday.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

"In-district transfer students are responsible for providing their own transportation, so that also could play a role in whether an applicant ends up enrolling, Margolis said." Not so. When Skyline H.S. was conceived, way back when, AAPS provided bus transportation to "in-district" transfer students because the administration knew the location of the school was not geographically ideal or socioeconomically diverse. AAPS has reneged on this agreement, citing budgetary constraints.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 3:29 a.m.

WISD is responsible for transportation. I can't see how they reneged when they thru their drivers under the bus and left them to fend for themselves. AAPS kept their end of the bargain. It is transportation that they reneged on. Take a look at the AATA schedule.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

real simple, Skyline was a failed attempt by the district to try and offer something different. In the ned its just like the other two comprehensive schools, only not as good. Huron still tops in academics across the board. Always will be given the population of students who attend from that side of town.


Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 3:28 a.m.

So sorry but Pioneer tops Huron any day of the week. Although your choir dresses nicer then Pioneer. I always feel I am church when I see them sing. Otherwise, Go Pioneers.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

why don't you say demographics - that is more accurate. Make the program more rigorous, and you will see the demand go up. Lets not beat around the bush - Skyline did dumb down for a reason- so that everyone (including the underacheivers) would be shown as equal performer. That does not work for a lot of parents, because they know the competition is other schools, including private schools.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

It'd be nice to have the reporter ask the District for data to see if the open enrollment students at Skyline are disproportionately represented in the magnet programs, i.e. are the specifically applying to Skyline for the magnets. If that proportion is changing it might make it easier to draw conclusions about whether students and their families are choosing Skyline in general or the magnet programs in particular. The trimester system has advantages and disadvantages. It's quite problematic if a Skyline student wants to take a course at one of the other high schools. Though this is allowed in theory it's quite difficult to schedule.

Dog Guy

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

True green believers yet gather under Skyline's wind-powered spire to increase their faith. Community High students are just freethinkers.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

dog guy? I have Skyline is that and a lot more. Not going into it here.But from what I am seeing? Free thinkers and a 60's attitude are of the norm at Skyline.

Jeff Gaynor

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 6:05 p.m.

sigdiamond: Dog Guy wrote with inspired mirth and satire.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

O...K. Thanks for that, whatever that was.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

I think the reason Skyline was more desirable to many earlier on is that it then had that lower school population (like Community).

Jim Mulchay

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

Just speculation but (1) when opened Skyline was new, different and attractive - now it is no longer "new" and some of the attractive elements (trimesters for example) may have not been well received by potential students and parents; (2) As intended, the overall student population at Huron and Pioneer has dropped, likely making them more attractive to their "in district" families; As far as "why Skyline" - I always felt a lot of it was the potential (real or imagined) competition from the new high schools at Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Saline and Whitmore Lake - "new is better"; The real challenge to AAPS is to improve the performance of the lower portion of the student body. The AP and merit scholars would do equally well at Greenhills or Catholic Central (if they are boys) - but real success is improving the students that arn't doing well.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

The demand for community high school continues to grow and it's a shame that our district has not made any efforts to replicate what is working there for the other schools. Most families may want the large factory like comprehensive high schools, but it's clear that many also want what community offers. this sounds like a great opportunity for another charter school in our district.

Basic Bob

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 12:26 a.m.

I think they should just spin off Community as a charter. That's basically how it operates. 1. Takes low risk kids from relatively wealthy families. 2. Siphons state money away from the real public schools. 3. Makes its own rules for students, faculty, and has its own unique administrative structure. 4. Unaccountable to the school board. (or should I say untouchable?)


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

It seems that some of the grand ideas that went into Skyline are meeting hard reality. Given the current (perpetual!) school budget crunch it will be difficult/impossible to maintain some of these ideas. Since the Ann Arbor High Schools enjoy a high reputation - majority of seniors go on to college, may to very good ones at that, high ACT/SAT scores, high MEAP scores, great selection of AP and AC classes - it wouldn't be bad idea for Skyline to operate more in the Pioneer/Huron mode. Skyline students will enjoy the newest building and amenities, but beyond that, maybe can't expect much more in this economic climate.

Linda Peck

Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

It is obvious what young people and their parents want, and yet the school system still is not listening.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

Community High has always been in high demand. Smaller classes, more attention, more opportunity for involvement....Does anyone wonder why when Skyline was built, that instead on another "big" school, that went millions of dollars over budget, those resources weren't used to meet the desire of the community to build two or possibly three smaller schools where more students could of had the "Community High" experience? Ann Arbor prides itself on education, but the history of the school board has shown that creativity in offering a high quality education means throwing money at the problem.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 6:52 p.m.

Skyline was built to ease the over crowding at Pioneer and Huron, which it has. Although the demand for Community is due to the fact that the students want less demands and more freedoms that Community does offer. Which is why there is a demand for Ann Arbor Mack Open. Parents and students want choices and less demands. Although the children have such a laid back approach to everything this is no surprise that Community is a school in demand. I much prefer Pioneer myself.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

A long time ago, when the idea of what the new high would be was being discussed, there was more interest for a "comprehensive" high school, similar to Pioneer and Huron. Not enough people, back then, wanted another Community-style high school.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

I could not agree more, A2Resident. Small schools are better, even if the individual class size is not smaller. Not everyone (no one?) wants to go to a huge factory high school - it's a stressful, unpleasant experience for a lot of kids. Wouldn't it have been lovely for the district to have really thought about what was good for kids first?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

@Thoughtful: I think there is a widespread perception that classes at Community are smaller than at the other schools. I envisioned classes with about 15 kids in them. Are all of them jam-packed with over 30 kids?


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

My kid is at Community. Sorry, but 33 kids in a class is not smaller - just a smaller room.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 11:52 a.m.

I wish Community High would scrap the lottery system and go back to having students and parents wait in line. Let the most tenatious win!


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

:( missmisery, you're giving a bad name to other elliott smith fans.


Thu, Feb 7, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Most families can't take time off from their jobs to stand in line 24/7 for up to 5 days to get their kids into a PUBLIC school. The lottery is much more equitable.