COVENTRY TWP. Coventry Local Schools may see a drop in enrollment when the 2017-18 school year gets underway.
During a special school board meeting March 22, the board heard a report on enrollment from Assistant Superintendent Lisa Blough, who said the district lowered the number of open enrolled kindergarten students to 19 due to a reduction in teachers.
On top of the 19 open enrolled kindergartners, the district has 46 resident students registered for for next year. The total of 65 kindergartners enrolled so far is well below the 102 the district reported in its headcount to the Ohio Department of Education in October, but Blough cautioned that a lot of parents wait until the last minute to sign their children up, which makes it tough to determine how many additional kindergartners the district will get.
As a part of being in placed in fiscal emergency, the district has put a cap on the number of students that can be enrolled at each building. At Coventry Elementary School, the limit is 750 students. This year, there were 652 students, which is 98 below the capacity being accepted.
In total, the district had 2,095 students enrolled this school year.
At Coventry Middle School, there are 696 students this year, just below the 700 limit the district set. Blough said sixth grade is a large entry point for open enrolled students, adding that normally at this time of the year the district sees between 35 and 50 applications. So far, there have only been just 15 applications.
Overall, the district has 70 open enrollment students who have not re-applied for next year. Blough, however, said that is not unusal. But she believes the debate about open enrollment in recent months has had a definite impact on the number of families applying. Some parents, Blough said, may have decided to send their children to other districts because they were unsure if Coventry was going to continue to open enroll students.
Coventry High School currently has 747 students, which is 53 under the 800 limit set for the building.
One early projection by the district shows the district could have 57 fewer students this upcoming school year. Of those 57, nine are resident students and 48 are open enrolled. On average, the district receives about $3,000 for resident students and $6,000 for open enrollment students. The result of 57 students lost would mean a $315,000 loss for the district.
But the district has received 66 new open enrollment applications. If it were to accept them all, Coventry could have nine more students than this year.
"These numbers vary and they could change 1,000 times before the beginning of the school year," Blough said.
A loss of students, though, would be a concern to Treasurer Matthew Muccio.
"A loss of students is a loss of revenue for us," Muccio said.
During the summer, Ohio Auditor Dave Yost released an audit report that showed Coventry, which on a percentage basis open enrolls more students than any district in Ohio, was losing an estimated $1 million per year due to its policy. That prompted officials to research open enrollment.
An Open Enrollment Committee was formed and met monthly to investigate the Auditor's Office report deeper. Blough and Muccio studied the issue and released a 100-plus page report that showed open enrollment was not costing the district money, but rather resulted in an additional $4.5 million in revenue per year. In February, the Open Enrollment Committee voted 10-2 to recommend the Board of Education not make any major changes to its policy.
The two Open Enrollment Committee "no votes" came from members of the Coventry Schools Taxpayers Accountability Coaltioni (CSTAC), a group of township residents who for years have challenged the district about its open enrollment policy.