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Posted on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 4:25 p.m.

Schools of Choice: Ann Arbor opens 25 seats at Skyline High School to boost enrollment

By Danielle Arndt


Skyline High School will accept freshmen students from outside the Ann Arbor Public Schools district for 2013-14 in a move the superintendent called "an experiment."

Daniel Brenner | file photo

The Ann Arbor Board of Education approved Wednesday night opening 195 Schools of Choice seats to out-of-district students — 25 of those seats will be offered at Skyline High School to boost its declining enrollment.

Opening Schools of Choice seats at the secondary level is a first for the Ann Arbor school district. The move was not initially intended to take place for the coming school year, but board members pushed administration to pursue it.

The board members were unanimous that opening Schools of Choice at Skyline could help with the trend of declining enrollment at the school, although it was not part of the administration's original recommendation at Wednesday night's meeting.

The board expressed an interest last March in considering Schools of Choice at the high schools this year. Director of Student Accounting and Research Services Jane Landefeld said because this also was the first year AAPS accepted in-district transfer applications at Huron and Pioneer, school officials wanted more time to monitor the needs and requests of its in-district students before opening any of the high schools up to out-of-boundary freshmen.

Landefeld said enrollment for fall is fluctuating on a daily basis. Twenty-five in-district transfer seats were made available at both Huron and Pioneer. Eight students from Pioneer and 23 from Skyline requested to attend Huron High School. Since the application window closed, all students requesting a transfer to Huron have been enrolled due to some of the first 25 declined.

Landefeld said students often apply to a number of schools, see where they get in and then make their decision about where to enroll.

At Pioneer, there were 50 in-district transfer requests, 25 from both Skyline and Huron. About 14 remain on a waiting list for PHS, Landefeld said.

But Skyline's open enrollment process for freshmen students generated fewer applicants than there were seats available. The exact number of applicants has not yet been made available by the district. Landefeld said Wednesday there were approximately 20 to 30 additional spots that could have been filled if the school had had enough applicants.

Deputy Superintendent for Instruction Alesia Flye said in addition to wanting to monitor the needs of families within the district and to make sure those needs are being addressed first, school officials have some concerns about possibly needing to hire some additional personnel at Huron and Pioneer to accommodate the new in-district transfer students. AAPS currently faces budget reductions of $17 million to $20 million for the 2013-14 school year.

But Trustee Glenn Nelson said if the district opened spots at Skyline — which had a 2012 enrollment of 1,501 students, 100 students fewer than at Huron or Pioneer — and could get 25 additional students at $9,000-plus a piece, then that money could be used to put another teacher or two at Huron or Pioneer.


Glenn Nelson

"Because the odds are quite high that those 25 students could be absorbed into Skyline with no increase in FTE," Nelson said.

There were nods of affirmation from around the board table. Landefeld said she believes it would be feasible to get 25 out-of-district students to apply to Skyline, if the board chose to open it up.

Superintendent Patricia Green added she would like to stress, "if staffing implications come to bear, it would be what we were trying to avoid doing."

"So if we are all on the same page as understanding this would be somewhat of an experiment and that's understood … then we would go ahead with it," she said.

Incoming ninth-graders who live outside of AAPS boundaries will have from April 8 to May 7 to apply to attend Skyline High School. The application window is the same for the other grade levels.

Seats also were made available in grades K-6: 40 spots are open in kindergarten and first, 10 spots in second through fifth and 50 spots in sixth grade. The seats are open at Abbot, Bryant, Carpenter, Dicken, Eberwhite, Lakewood, Logan, Northside, Pittsfield and Pattengill elementaries, as well as Forsythe, Scarlett and Slauson middle schools, based on enrollment projections and space available.

The 170 seats opened in grades K-6 is the same number and allotment opened for the current year. The district had about 110 students eventually enroll at AAPS through Schools of Choice.

This is AAPS' fourth year of approving Schools of Choice and attempting to bring in more students and more revenue. Each year the district has had more seats available than students applying, but the number of applications is increasing as more people become aware of the opportunity.

The first year, Ann Arbor offered 150 spots for kindergarten, first and sixth grades only and had 72 students enroll. The second year, 170 seats were offered with 95 students eventually enrolling.

Students will be notified if their application for 2013-14 was accepted by no later than May 22.

If the number of non-resident applicants eligible for acceptance is greater than the number of seats available, students who reside in the same household as students enrolled through Schools of Choice in the current 2012-13 academic year will receive first consideration, according to documents prepared by the district. A random draw will be used to determine selection for the remaining spaces. A wait list will be maintained for the remaining applicants until the start of the school year.

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



Fri, Apr 5, 2013 : 11:13 p.m.

This could be a mutually beneficial situation since AAPS wants to fill spots and there are plenty of bright students with involved parents living in surrounding districts who are looking for other options. However, as a parent of an incoming Kindergarten child, I'm curious how parents go about making an informed decision about their "top 4" choices of the elementary schools AAPS made available? Based on recommendations from neighbors who attend AAPS through SOC, I actually attended (uninvited) a Kindergarten Round-up to get a feel for the school...and wouldn't you know it? It's not on the list this year. Now it seems all I have to go on are test scores and websites, which seems like a pretty poor way of making a decision. On the other hand, Saline Area Schools invites parents interested in applying for SOC to attend their Kindergarten Round-Up event.

Ross Dunbar

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

All three comprehensive AAPS high schools are very strong in the sciences. If I were a parent of a student in a nearby district such as Dexter, South Lyon, Chelsea, Ypsilanti, Willow Run, Pinckney, I would seriously consider the extraordinary opportunity of the school of choice seats at Skyline. I initially came in a skeptic of the "mastery learning" concept at Skyline but have realized this year just how positive its impact is on learning. There is so much less student frustration and more overall learning taking place among all students. The worst thing we can do as a school and as a community is to make it acceptable for any student to throw in the towel and give up on learning in frustration. Also, none of the top academic students at Skyline have been hurt by it in any way. I've had the benefit of working with the most at-risk kids in our community, and the least at-risk. As an AP social studies teacher, (and true for other AP teachers in AAPS) the most rewarding experience is to help a student who may never have considered taking an AP class or AP exam, maybe the first ever in their family, succeed academically and pass the exam, and prepared with the skills necessary for success in (not just admission to) college.

Blazingly Busy

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

My child is a student at Skyline. For the most part I like Skyline. The music program is good and I have found that, for my child, the trimester system is working well. I have some issues with Skyline. For instance, my child is a Junior and for three years I have been trying to speak to the principal. I have called, emailed and tried to set an appointment. No response. I'm really glad she is leaving. There is also a teacher in the math department who belittles kids who don't learn the same way this teacher does and actually said to the class (more than one report of this). Are you stupid? Do you need to go back to second grade to learn this? Now I am not one of those "you can only say positive things" to my children parents but I sure as heck don't want you saying incredibly rude things either.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

We're an in-district family that elected to apply for a seat at Skyline for our incoming freshman, while considering our district school, Huron, at the same time. With exception to the one curriculum night they held in February, which we missed since she attends a private school and received no notification, Skyline was not receptive or welcoming in any way to make it possible for us to check out the school. Why a prospective student can't "shadow" a day with a Student Council member, or the like, is beyond me. I was told to accept a spot, register and then attend the "Welcome Freshman" day at the end of May to learn more about the school. The end of May??!! With the uncertainty of the desired magnate program, the trimester/semester situation, the departure of the principal that I was very impressed with, my daughter has chosen to go to Huron. Seems to me, with the overwhelming amount of kids applying for Community, and the need for a lottery for the Skyline magnate program, it might be obvious that a more comprehensive magnate program is needed for this district. I loved the idea earlier to close Community and build a real magnate school out of Skyline.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 11:17 a.m.

Opening up more seats to out of district students just might decrease the in-district interest even further. I think fixiing the leadership and going off trimesters would help the in-district numbers. I've got a middle schooler in Skyline's boundaries and I'm not interested in sending her there at this point. We'll be looking at the other high schools or private when the time comes if Skyline is still in the state it is now.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 4:26 a.m.

The good: Filling up Skyline The bad: Every school of choice student is in effect subsidized by Ann Arbor taxpayers to the tune off thousands of dollars per student. Thought we had a budget deficit? Why do they really want it? More teachers will have to be hired! You can never have enough teachers in any particular school system.

Ross Dunbar

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

Skyline also has a university-caliber science department, both in faculty and lab facilities. I don't think there is a science department in any high school (public or private) anywhere in Washtenaw County that compares to Skyline's. The science teachers have advanced degrees (including PhDs; National Board Cert), real world industry experience, as well as incredible teaching experience. I would actually mention this as the #1 reason to send your child to Skyline.

Freight Train

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

"I would actually mention this as the #1 reason to send your child to Skyline." Actually Ross, the other two comprehensive schools have much higher AP math and science scores than Skyline. These statistics would speak much better to the "university-caliber" statement. I would say with Skyline's "mastery learning" they have definitely catered well to the lower level. Many parents I speak with say the top end is being sacrificed with the current program. The true science/math schools in AA are located in Pioneer/River Rat territories. Don't believe me? Just ask BALAS.

Jim Mulchay

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 11:31 a.m.

There is nothing wrong with a school offering outstanding programs - but any school district has to manage the entire district, not just one school. That is why some posters suggest moving / combining Community and Skyline and making it the "magnet school" for the entire district - with significant capacity - instead of juggling two separate buildings / programs. There is also salesmanship involved (hence the good athletic facilities) - there are some fine districts in the area as alternatives and good students generally will do well whether it is in Ann Arbor or another district; The real challenge is to take the mediocre and poor students and improve their academics - that is why there is the continuing (20+ years?) concern over the gap between strong and weak students.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 1:17 a.m.

Another school under capacity in AAPS. What a surprise! Could have predicted this. It's time to think about closing some of the under capacity schools in the district, Pittsfield, Mitchell, Northside, Scarlett, and Skyline!!!


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

You would close Skyline as an under-capacity building because it has 100 fewer students than Pioneer and Huron? We can only presume then that 750 students from Skyline would then be sent to Pioneer and 750 to Huron. What am I missing here? This does not sound like a workable plan.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 1:14 a.m.

I think it is interesting that they feel the need (chasing the precious $$$$$) to open Skyline to open enrollment to increase the number of students. Does anyone even think about why families want to leave, and fix the problems? AND, does anyone notice where the open enrollment is for the elementary schools? Not exactly what one would consider truly "schools of choice". Oh, of course, districts to the East of AAPS might take advantage of the opportunity, but what does this do to the current populations in these schools? All the district cares about is the $$$$, but they do not always consider what "problem" are being imported? Who does the district think is going to choose Skyline?

Usual Suspect

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 1:46 a.m.

Enrollment numbers go up or down each year. it's not exactly the same every year.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

Is admission into a magnet program guaranteed for the students who transfer in or are they admitted to the school and then entered into a lottery for getting into one of the magnet programs?


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 2:32 a.m.

No guarantee.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 12:43 a.m.

The latter. You must be admitted first and then can enter the lottery at the end of your freshman year (I think). Magnet programing begins sophomore year. Usually the health and engineering programs are very competitive to get into (more kids entering the lottery).


Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

Wow... will they have the room for only 25!!!!

Jim Mulchay

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

This sounds like a band-aid, not a fix. So we have two traditional (semester) comprehensive high schools accepting in-district transfers; one "innovative" comprehensive high school on trimesters accepting transfers from the district and without; one specialized high school with a significant waiting list; and two alternative high schools - with all of the last three also utilizing the comprehensive schools for some classes and extra-curricular programs. Maybe the AAPS is trying to cover too many bases?

Ross Dunbar

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

I think there are a lot of big draws to Skyline. First and most important is it's the neighborhood school for all of the north side of Ann Arbor with the tireless support of a large group of parent volunteers, from Foxfire in the northeast across to Barton Hills in the northwest. The magnet program is one of many great opportunities at Skyline. The music program is incredible, theater program incredible, sports (especially soccer) incredible, clubs supporting students of all diverse backgrounds (including gay and lesbian students) incredible, the list goes on and on. I am excited both of my kids will get the chance to go there in a few years.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 6:31 p.m.

Reg I can answer your question "if the theatre program at Skyline is so incredible, why do so many Skyline students end up doing theatre at Pioneer??" Three reasons: the student's grades were not up to snuff and therefore were not eligible to audition, the student did not like the role they were cast in at Skyline, they have a sibling at Pioneer and perhaps feel more comfortable with the sibling. The question you should ask is ......Why are Skyline students consistently getting the leads at Pioneer? Hmm...maybe Ross Dunbar knows what he is talking about.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 11:40 a.m.

Complaining about theater programs? We need more to worry about. The Pioneer program has been around a lot longer than Skyline. Give Skyline time. Perhaps you're also thinking about Future Stars, a district wide competition that is hosted at Pioneer.

Ross Dunbar

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 11:07 a.m.

Pioneer has a great theatre program, no doubt about it. So does Huron.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 9:58 a.m.

I have one question, Ross....if the theatre program at Skyline is so incredible, why do so many Skyline students end up doing theatre at Pioneer??


Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

Maybe Skyline's enrollment is dropping off because the students and parents are finding out that the magnet program is only available to about 25% of the students. Unless something has changed, this information isn't even brought up until the students sophomore year. That is the big draw to Skyline, isn't it?

Ross Dunbar

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

This is my first year teaching at Skyline (eleventh year as a public school teacher) and I love it there! The students and parents are great, and the teachers are an incredibly dedicated and caring group. My daughter and son will be future eagles, and I hope parents outside of the AAPS will consider Skyline with the schools of choice seats now open. There is no perfect high school out there, but I truly believe Skyline is pretty close to the perfect learning environment for all students.


Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 12:25 a.m.

Great to hear. My child loved your class!


Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

With the BOE passing a racist "resolution" that basically condones violence on high school property, AAPS will be lucky to retain the current amount of students it already has, let alone gaining more.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Mar 15, 2013 : 4:23 a.m.

A timid, misguided and politically correct BOE will cost the AAPS more money over time.