COVENTRY TWP. The future of open enrollment in Coventry Schools remains unknown now, but the plan moving forward will soon be revealed.
As a part of being in fiscal emergency, the district established an Open Enrollment Committee to study open enrollment and the impact it has on the district. The findings of this committee are expected to be revealed to the public 6:30 p.m. Monday inside the Coventry High School theater. On Friday, the Board of Education is holding a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. at the Lakeview Administrative Offices to review the recommendations of the Open Enrollment Committee.
In July 2016, the Auditor of State released a report stating Coventry's open enrollment has been costing the district more than $1 million dollars each year. The auditor encouraged the district to do its own study to determine the impact open enrollment is having on finances.
The committee studying open enrollment consist of 13 people who are residents, parents, teachers, board members, administrators, senior citizens, state commission members and members of Coventry Schools Taxpayers Accountability Coalition (CSTAC). The committee was formed a month after the auditor’s report and has met every month, until recently, when the committee has ramped it up to several times a month to develop a final report and recommendation.
Superintendent Russell Chaboudy said the district has been plugging in the actual numbers and looking at how open enrollment is effecting the bottom line.
"It may come out this group recommends reducing open enrollment; it may come out and recommend keeping open enrollment," Chaboudy said. "We're just not sure where that is headed at this point."
Chaboudy said it is all about making the best decision for the students and the community.
He said the committee has refined the policy on open enrollment, which was something recommended by the state auditor.
When the findings of the open enrollment committee are presented, the decision will then go to the school board. Chaboudy stressed the decision moving forward is a local decision that will need approval from the board and the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, which is overseeing the district through fiscal emergency.
The changes, if any, will take effect for the start of next school year as open enrollment beings on March 1.
This year, Coventry has 762 open enrolled students and Chaboudy said open enrollment is something that has been around in Coventry for 23 years.
"As the superintendent, my job is to try and provide the best education for students," Chaboudy said. "What I fear most is that if you cut all these programs not only do you lose the open enrollment kids but you lose the students looking for a better educational opportunity wherever that might be."
Board president Bob Wohlgamuth said the district is taking a good, hard look at open enrollment and a lot of time is being spent on examining the pros and cons.
"A lot of schools are calling us asking, 'what is going on?' and to 'keep us up to date' because it is not just a Coventry issue," Wohlgamuth said. "It is a statewide issue because open enrollment is statewide."
Wohlgamuth and Chaboudy said it is possible the state legislator could begin looking at open enrollment and its impact on the state level.
Chaboudy, who is a member of the Open Enrollment Committee, said the recommendation means that "all options are on the table" in regards to how open enrollment will move forward in Coventry.
"Our five-year-forecast is looking very positive and we have been able to do that without even plugging in any reductions (in open enrollment)," Chaboudy said. "That has to be a factor in our discussion as well.
"Honestly, at this point, I can’t tell you what that committee will recommend. I am not driving the committee, I am just a part of it."
The decision could potential impact a lot of students, the number of staff and the number of programs. Coventry Schools is the largest employer in the township.
"The whole reduction has a major impact not only on the school, but the community," Chaboudy said. "It is a major decision and that is why we are taking so long to make sure we get it right before we make any kind of recommendation."
The auditor recommended the district cut 666 open enrolled students to help save money, but Chaboudy said he believes no one in the committee believes that many students should be cut. Any change in the number of students is likely to be gradual Chaboudy said, but he isn’t even sure if there will be one.
Chaboudy said his goal has always been to keep Coventry a solid school district, but he said he is also willing to listen to whatever the committee recommends.
"We’re not fighting the auditor," Chaboudy said. "The problem comes that reducing 666 kids will devastate the school district and that is our major concern. Who wants a minimal education? Nobody."