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Wadsworth superintendent talks open enrollment process

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WADSWORTH — Wadsworth Schools Superintendent Andrew Hill said it was impressed upon him when he joined the district that the concept of neighborhood schools was important to the community.

“I get contacted by a number of parents this time of year in regards to where we place elementary students,” Hill said at Monday’s school board meeting.

“I thought it would be good if everybody kind of collectively heard the same thing tonight; and if nothing more, it can be out there as an explanation for our community.”

Hill said open enrollment applications for students looking to attend a school other than their assigned home-base school were due in April, and parents were notified of the district’s decision in early August.

One district priority is to place as many elementary students in their “home-base school” as possible.

“I am not sure how to create a system that is ever going to be able to achieve the two end results that we are trying to achieve and make everybody happy,” he said.

“I just don’t think it is possible if what we are trying to do is put as many into a home base and balance out class numbers.”

A student’s address determines which of the five Wadsworth elementary schools he or she will attend.

A second priority is to keep class sizes at an even level across the district. For instance, the district works to keep kindergarten through second grade classes at 20-23 students.

“Unless an error has been made, I can tell you that this system is about as objective as any system could possibly be to try to achieve the end result of home base and classsize numbers,” Hill said.

He said students who either move into the district over the summer or move to a different address within the district are placed on a list and those students are assigned schools chronologically according to when they were registered or proof of residency was provided.

Wadsworth has not accepted out-of-district students at the elementary level in years, if ever, due to class size issues, he said.

“This past summer as an example, between move-ins and then those that moved, we were around 100 new students in (kindergarten) through four from where we were in May when I had preliminarily looked at this stuff,” Hill said.

He said if a student cannot immediately be assigned to his home school, he will be placed on a waiting list that will be active until the middle of September.

“If an opening happens for whatever reason, we will go to that wait list, to that first kid on it, before we place somebody else into that building,” Hill said.

The superintendent said when it came time to place requests for open enrollments, he was able to accept “something like 21 out of 66 applicants, very few.”

“Every year at this time, these first couple weeks of August, are, for a lack of a better word, painful for many,” he said. “Painful for parents to get notified that their student isn’t going to be in the school that they thought he or she were going to be in.”

Hill said it is also a struggle for parents who have been selected for open enrollment one year to find their child will not be able to attend the same school for the upcoming year.

“I think it is a fair statement to make, at least on the materials we give parents, that open enrollment is a year-to-year thing,” Hill said. “There is no guarantee.”

“I certainly do feel for the families that receive those letters that say their child isn’t able to go to a certain school, but in the long run I think having all of our (kindergarten) through (grade) four class sizes evenly sized is the most important thing and the most beneficial,” board member Julie Batey said.

“I look at this from the standpoint of, we can’t meet the requirement of what everybody wants, but I feel very comfortable that no one will be shortchanged because of where they will go,” Hill said.

The first day for students this school year is Aug. 21.

Contact reporter Nathan Havenner at (330) 721-4050 or nhavenner@medina-gazette.com.
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