For months, a small yet vocal group of Edina School District parents has had one message for administrators: Open enrollment is out of control.
"While we respectfully recognize the importance of diversity, unchecked admission of nonresidents into Edina Public Schools has impacted class size and resulted in overcrowding," group members said in a document posted at ipetitions.com.
Open enrollment became a hot-button issue in Edina last fall after several Concord Elementary School parents complained to board members because some fourth-grade classrooms had more than 27 students, the maximum under district guidelines.
School officials addressed the concerns by hiring half-time paraprofessionals for classes that exceeded class-size guidelines, closing open enrollment at most grades and convening a study team to review open enrollment, class sizes and facilities.
Edina Superintendent Ric Dressen and other members of the study team will give residents an update on their work tonight at South View Middle School.
Statewide, nonresident students bring with them about $5,074 in per-student state funding when they open enroll in a district. Such movement is allowed by Minnesota's open enrollment laws, which more than 30,000 students used this school year.
Now, more than 15 percent, or about 1,205 of Edina's 7,706 students, come from outside the district, said Gwen Jackson, Edina's director of administrative planning. Most live in Minneapolis, Hopkins and Richfield, followed by St. Louis Park and Eden Prairie, Jackson said.
Edina's current open-enrollment figure represents an increase of 192 students over the previous school year.
Residents question whether it's good policy to fill classrooms with so many students from outside the district.
"If you have a good district, you want to share it with as many students as you can, but you have to plan for it," said Edina parent Teri Whaley.
Edina school officials, however, point out that while other metro districts, including Minnetonka and Mounds View, use advertising to attract outside students to their programs, its applicants hear about Edina schools by word of mouth.
"We've talked about advertisements from other districts and said, 'They've promised everything except the kitchen sink,'" Jackson said. "We don't advertise in [other] districts."
And the interest continues. Edina received more than 350 open-enrollment applications by Jan. 15 for the 2008-09 school year, Jackson said. The district expects to enroll about 170 non-resident students next year based on current estimates.
According to state law, Minnesota districts must tell open-enrollment applicants whether they're accepted by Feb. 15. Jackson said. Edina will meet that deadline.
Edina's enrollment situation is unusual because, unlike other older communities, its resident enrollment has remained relatively stable or grown slightly in recent years.
Meanwhile, Department of Education figures show that Edina's nonresident enrollment rose from about 8 percent of its total student population in 2001 to more than 14 percent in 2007. Its percentage of non-resident students is higher than any other district in the west metro.
With additional state funding at stake, some districts are taking a more aggressive approach in recent years to attracting students through open enrollment. Others don't.
"Until two or three years ago we didn't advertise it a lot, and we did limit it to 1 percent per grade level," said Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District spokesman Tony Taschner.
Last fall, the south-metro district reported that about 816, or 2.93 percent, of its total enrollment of 27,873 students were nonresidents. Taschner said the district historically has been a net loser to open enrollment because it limited nonresident enrollment as resident enrollment increased.
Jackson said it's too early for Edina to commit to specific limits. At tonight's meeting, residents will hear about enrollment and class-size recommendations made by staff members from various schools.
"Families are desperately trying to get into this district," Jackson said, and the district is not going to meet that demand in the future.
Patrice Relerford • 612-673-4395