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New Berlin schools could be out for Open Enrollment students

Jan. 21, 2013

New Berlin - Children who don't live in New Berlin but have attended New Berlin schools since kindergarten under the state Open Enrollment program may be turned away in seventh grade for lack of space, under a policy the New Berlin School Board is considering.

Currently, children accepted through Open Enrollment are guaranteed space to finish school in New Berlin. Among those students are children who lived in the district but whose families moved out, forcing them to use Open Enrollment as a means to finish school in the district where they started.

Growth spurt

The reason the board is considering a change is because Eisenhower Middle/High School is already over its 1,119-student capacity and a large tract of farmland within Eisenhower's boundaries is in line for development, said Superintendent Joe Garza. The tract, known as section 35, is the largest piece of farmland east of Moorland Road and is expected to include new homes.

Eisenhower's enrollment now totals 1,202.

Under the proposed policy, Open Enrollment sixth-graders would have to re-apply to enter seventh grade at one of the middle/high schools. The district may not require that re-application every year, depending on space, officials said.

Weighing impact

The board could vote on the policy as early as Monday.

But before that, board member John Kegel said he wanted to see how that would impact children who have been in the district for three or four years and have siblings who would like to be accepted, also.

Board member Susan Manley wanted to know whether other districts are dropping their guarantees.

At the proposal's first consideration last week, board member Jeffrey Kurth didn't like it much.

"I'd rather keep the guarantee and allow them that peace of mind that when they're here they're family," he said.

But Garza responded that not having the option puts the district somewhat at risk.

To try to increase chances of students continuing in the schools, a waiting list would be created, under the new policy. It would enable the schools to accept students after the normal acceptance deadline. Room could open up after the Open Enrollment deadline as enrollments become clearer closer to the start of school.

What district loses

The New Berlin schools haven't accepted new Open Enrollment students for four years, which has split up families, two parents told the board last week.

John Tsoris, father of a seventh-grader at New Berlin West and a fifth-grader at Poplar Creek, said, "We feel privileged to be in the district," and appreciate Open Enrollment. But he has a second-grader whom he has been trying unsuccessfully to get accepted into New Berlin.

Open Enrollment children and their parents are helpful to the district, Tsoris said, noting that his children score well on standardized tests, and he and his wife help at school. "We try to give back," he said.

Similarly, Glenn Podlesnik of Milwaukee said he has coached soccer every year since his 12-year-old son was accepted into kindergarten under Open Enrollment.

Podlesnik has an 8-year-old son who wants to come to New Berlin but is now in the Whitnall district.

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Possible vote on dropping guarantee for Open Enrollment students to be able to finish high school in the district

WHEN: 7 p.m. Jan. 28

WHERE: New Berlin West Middle/High School, 18695 W. Cleveland Ave.

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