More than 1,500 parents applied for their child to attend a different school than the one assigned to them in the 2021-2022 school year.
It's not yet clear how many of them will be accepted, but the process this year is complicated by a couple of factors:
- The district is working within newly drawn boundaries for the middle and high schools. That means some kids who started high school in one building may now have to finish it in another.
- Parents had a new option to sign up online, which officials say went smoothly, except for the first 16 minutes where a technical error made it impossible for parents to sign up.
Ok, so back up quick. What is open enrollment?
It traces back to a 1997 state law stipulating that K-12 students can attend any public school in any school district.
The law has several exceptions (enumerated here, if reading laws is your jam) that give local districts the authority to set limits on open enrollment based on building or program capacity, among other things.
In Sioux Falls, some new limits on open enrollment were installed for the coming school year related to how many kids can be in one building (or grade level.)
What do parents have to say about this?
As with anything, it depends who you ask. We asked about a half-dozen parents with kids in Sioux Falls schools.
Some parents got in no problem, but others are frustrated by the process. Some are even saying they're planning to move so their kid is guaranteed attendance at the school they want.
That includes Lincoln High School parent K.C. Carlson. Here's her story:
- Her son is a sophomore at Lincoln, but with redistricting can no longer call that school home.
- She applied for open enrollment in-person, waiting overnight and sleeping in her car to be one of the first people in line.
- She later learned there were no open spots for incoming juniors at Lincoln.
- Now, she's planning to move to a house in the Lincoln district to ensure both her son and incoming-freshman daughter (who did get in via open enrollment to one of the limited freshmen spots) can both graduate as a Patriot.
"There were a lot of folks out there that slept in their cars that probably wouldn't have done that if someone had just been transparent with them and said there were no spots."
So, why didn't officials say anything ahead of time?
They say they didn't know, especially at the high school level.
Assistant Superintendent Jamie Nold said didn't know until a month after open enrollment started how many returning high school seniors would be staying in their current school.
- Seniors were the only students who were "grandfathered in" to their current school. All other grades were subject to the new boundaries.
Put this in context. How many people are we talking about here?
Anecdotally, it's a higher number than usual for this time of year. Keep in mind, the district has about 25,000 students total.
- In the entire 2019-2020 school year, 2,098 students applied for open enrollment compared to the 1,558 so far in just two months for the 2021-2022 school year.
- Those numbers include applicants both within and outside of the Sioux Falls School District, but Assistant Superintendent Jamie Nold said the vast majority (upwards of 90 percent) were from within Sioux Falls.
- As of late last week, 400 high school open enrollments had been approved, and 100 middle school open enrollments were approved. The rest of the middle and elementary school approvals will happen in the coming weeks, Nold said.
What happens next?
If you're still waiting to hear if your kid was approved for open enrollment, keep waiting. An answer will be coming by mid- to late-March, Nold said.
If you got rejected and can't go to the school you want, there's no easy way to say it, but, you're essentially out of luck unless more kids decide to leave and open up more spots to enroll.