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Posted on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor approves Schools of Choice, weighs future changes

By Danielle Arndt

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.

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


Roger Kuhlman

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.

The Ann Arbor School Board wasted a lot of taxpayer money building Skyline High School. Now they have to go out and solicit non-resident students to fix up their mistakes. The School Board's record of financial management has been a very sorry one. It seems they only care about keeping the teachers' Union and School Administrators happy.


Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 3:52 a.m.

The reason IB is being pushed by AAPS is because this is a charter that is based on the European and world standards. Meaning that to be totally caught in todays society and be able to function in it you have to have a worldly take on it. All we know right now is what USA pushes down our throat. IB takes it one step further. They teach us to survive the business market on the world market level. These children when they grad? Will not only have USA learned status? But also a degree that furthers them into the college level as well. IB is not for everyone. It is for those who are serious about going into business and has a high bar to follow. I thought about it and realized one thing. If mine cannot sustain a B average? She will fail at IB.


Fri, Mar 9, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

Washtenaw Technical Middle is a charter but the IB is not...otherwise why would AAPS be encouraging students to apply and attend? But parents who wanted a magnet school in Ann Arbor are choosing WTB and IB instead of the regular schools. OBTW - Charters are public schools too, funded by tax money just like the rest of the public schools, only they don't get local millage money only state funds. And the "hold harmless" funds AAPS gets for in district children, are not given for schools of choice children either.


Fri, Mar 9, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

The two schools you mention are not regular public schools. These are schools that you have to sign up for and hope to get in thru a merit exam. With IB? This is technically a charter school. So is the other one. So, no. Skyline, Pioneer and Huron are public. The two you mention are charters and you have to apply. Now whether or not you get in is a whole new ball game. Mine was selected but we opted out because the h school ours was to attend had more to offer then what Tech and IB had. Might want to look into IB and Tech before making these statements.


Fri, Mar 9, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

jns131 - Skyline was built to relieve overcrowding in the future based on a population projection that was wrong. The district topped out in the year Skyline was started and without schools of choice would be losing population. As to whether Skyline was the right choice or not, that is a whole different question. The raw online survey's and focus group meetings wanted a magnet academic school. The administration built a comprehensive high school instead. They spent about 3x what it would have cost to build the school their community outreach wanted. They also had to add way more staff than the 19 total staff members that they said Skyline would need. So now we have the WISD IB and Washtenaw Technical Middle school to fill in the hole that AAPS left when they did not follow the requests of the involved parents. If overcrowding was the real reason Skyline was built, they would have filled it in one school year. But the coaches and team boosters wanted to not diminish the existing varsity teams in the high schools, and so the 4 year fill issue. The other way that the issue could have quickly been dealt with was to revert to a Junior High model - making the grade schools K-6, the now middle schools 7-9 and the high schools 10-12. It would have cost about 20% of the cost of Skyline. Again the people involved from the community preferred this option to Skyline in the online and focus groups in the raw inputs. Funny how the final announcements were for a new comprehensive high school and that the majority of focus groups and online supported this according to the administration. I listened to report out after report out at the focus groups, only 2 of the many tables to report out were in favor of the comprehensive high school, but the reports later always indicated that the majority had been. Funny how that happened.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

Actually Skyline was built because of over crowding at Pioneer and Huron. This eased the population to a point that teachers can now teach with normal classroom sizes. Not college size. Skyline is now at capacity. This has nothing to do with getting hi schoolers to enroll because there is no school choice at this level. It stops at 6.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:14 p.m.

AAPS has had school choice for quite some time now. This is really a no brainer, it is just that a lot of people have decided not to take AAPS up on their offer. Plus a lot of children will not have a ride to school if they do do school choice. This is why we do AATA.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.

Ann Arbor News - What happens once children are accepted through the schools of choice program? Are they required to reapply every year? If a child is accepted as a sixth grader for next year, can he or she count on attending seventh grade at the same school? Is there preference for siblings of kids who are already attending through schools of choice?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

local? I would not sweat it. I have played this school choice game and they do not want to loose $9500 from their budget. The child will follow if you so choose and make a little noise about it. Most times, if the school feeds into one middle? They go. I know of 5 elementary's that feed into one middle, so no biggie there. Mine did feed into that middle and then right into the hi school. There is always room at the inn. Liz has to do what Liz does best, be the moderator and the liaison for the district. Talk to other parents who have been thru the system and you will be just fine.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

Liz? From what I was told there is always room at the inn for students to be accepted at the secondary level. Ours did follow the feeder schools until hi school. They kept her with her classmates in middle and glad most did not follow to the hi school. With AAPS loosing students? I really would not worry about the secondary until it becomes an issue which it won't.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

There is no guarantee for the middle school that your elementary school feeds into because AAPS wants to place you at the middle school losing population...


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

But Liz, do you see how this is a problem.. Clearly they have a space, but friendships and being comfortable when transitioning is a huge thing for many kids. That transition from elementary to middle school is huge, specially after 5 years with the same core of friends. You might guarantee a spot, but these kids want to be with the peer group they have grown up going to school with. That is all I am saying. Ann Arbor simply isn't addressing the importance of those connections when it comes to students and to give them a spot is great, but not at a school with their peers, is kind of absurd. If this were your child and we said, "sorry, but we know you have been with your friends for 5 years, but next year you have to go to a completely different middle school because space isn't available." How do you think that would play out with your child? And as a parent who has also made connections within that community, how would you feel? Please respond as a parent, not as an AAPS employee!

Liz Margolis

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

The students are guaranteed a seat in middle and high school it may just not be in the feeder pattern school. It will entirely depend on availablity of enrollment space at the individual comprehensive high schools.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 6:49 p.m.

Liz, can you explain to me how a school district would accept kids for elementary level, have them with their peers for 5 years, and then not guarantee that they transition with their peers to the middle school that their peers would go to. The district needs to figure that out. It doesn't cost the district anything in transportation because parents are required to provide. I think a lot of families are excited to use school of choice, then they get to 5th grade and they realize they made need to make different plans. It seems to me that if you allow a child in under these guidelines, they should track with their peers to middle school, then into high school. Right now, an 8th grader who got into Ann Arbor from school of choice has no where to go, high schools have zero openings. What are those families suppose to do?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

Thanks, Liz, for clearing up the feeder school question.

Liz Margolis

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

Stand corrected. If a student is in via School of Choice then the sibling has priority. But again, there is no guarantee of following the feeder pattern as the students progress in grades. Danielle is incorrect in this reference.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

Thank you both for your replies. Liz Margolis - The Michigan Department of Education's page regarding Schools of Choice (<a href=",1607,7-140-6530_30334-106922--,00.html)" rel='nofollow'>,1607,7-140-6530_30334-106922--,00.html)</a> says this: &quot; If the number of applicants exceeds the number of positions available, the district must accept eligible applicants in the following order: 1. Students who reside in the same household as students enrolled under section 105 or 105c in the immediately preceding school year, or semester or Trimester; &quot; So would mean that once a child is admitted to Ann Arbor, any siblings of the same household who apply would get preference for future available spots?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

SuperiorMother, jns131 is correct in the answers to your questions. Once your child has been accepted, they finish out their K-12 careers with AAPS, unless at any point you choose to enroll them in another district or private/charter school. However, it is my understanding that they will be required to follow the proper feeder school channels. For example, Mitchell to Scarlett to Huron. But I will ask about those schools, for example Clague, that feed into two high schools based on residency. Lastly, siblings of children that previously have been admitted through schools of choice still will be required to fill out an application. But they will be given preference and will be guaranteed a seat. This information came from Jane Landefeld at last night's meeting. More info on feeder schools can be found here: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. I also added a link to the documents that were approved last night to the story for readers to peruse. Thanks for your questions!

Liz Margolis

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

Once a student is accepted in the Schools of Choice program they are admitted to the AAPS for the rest of their school career. This does not guarantee that they will follow the feeder pattern of the school they are admitted to. That would depend on available seats at the secondary level. There is no preference given to siblings of students already in the district. Applications will be posted on the AAPS website starting April 1. No applications will be accepted before April 16. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

To the first question? No. Once you are in, you are in. The second question? They will follow with their classmates unless you state otherwise. So, yes to that question. Then they will either go to Huron or Pioneer or Skyline of your choosing. I had a choice and choose the one I graduated from. The last question? I think they resolved that one. I think the answer is yes, but you will need to call Balais and ask. Mine got in thru the employee program and was kept with AAPS because our district is a multi year failing district after I was laid off from AAPS. But there is a catch. You will need to figure out your own mode of transportation. Ours has been taking AATA since 8th grade and does for high school. Good luck.

Jim Mulchay

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

The student has become a commodity worth $7,000. Since the state is increasingly the source of school funding it is reasonable that the state (not the traditional district) will continue to have greater control on the public schools (traditional and charter). From a &quot;business&quot; point of view someone in Lansing is going to start pulling the plugs on districts (and maybe even some charters). I'd expect increased pressure towards combining school districts (maybe 1 district for most counties?); When - not right away, but the funding issue is not going away; politically I don't see the individual districts being given the right to raise as much local money as they'd like and some districts are going to just plain run out of money - emergency managers or not. It will likely be a huge political fight with lots of special interests on both sides, but some way has to be developed to fund schools adequately and equitably over time - and 500-600 school districts is probably no longer the best solution. So - Washtenaw ISD - with maybe 5 or 6 high schools in 2020?


Fri, Mar 9, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Divine? AAPS only opened up FT K to lure prospective new parents and school choice parents to the district. AAPS has been toying with FT K for a few years now and parents have not been very open to the idea until now. They still aren't, but still, it is happening in September. By the way, WISD is more for special ed then regular.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

In Ann Arbor? I was told $9500.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

Mr Mulchay - Students have always come with dollars attached. Ann Arbor chose for many years to avoid schools of choice since they get fewer dollars for out of district students than in district students. But since the student population projections done when Skyline was proposed were wrong - now they will take any student that brings any amount of money with them. I guess this goes under the heading of &quot;beggars can't be choosers&quot;?

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

It is one of the reasons why we now have all day kindergarten.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Why was Wines school left out of the list? Are they already up to capacity?


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

Wines is at capacity. It has nothing to do with elitism.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 11 p.m.

So you are saying my child is not good enough to be with your child? Gee, isn't that calling the pot black? Interesting you would state that.

J. A. Pieper

Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

Wines' population is too elite for what &quot;schools of choice&quot; bring in to the district.


Thu, Mar 8, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Call Balais. Might be an over site.