Open enrollment allows students to choose their school within Kansas as long as there is available space

Both high schools in the district will not have any capacity for additional students
Open enrollment allows students to choose their school within Kansas as long as there is available space

Starting in the fall, students in Kansas will have the opportunity to enroll at any school state-wide after Kansas lawmakers passed House Bill 2553 in 2022. This bill requires districts to allow any student to enroll at their schools, if capacity permits, in hopes of helping them find the best educational experience.

As required by law, the school board recently decided to adopt the enrollment capacity numbers and determined that the district has 34 available seats for non-residential students across four elementary schools and one middle school. Both Mill Valley and De Soto high schools are considered at capacity and cannot accept additional non-residential students.

By Hailey Perrin

The law requires districts to announce the amount of open seats they have for nonresident students by June 1. Since the policy gives each district the ability to decide that number, assistant superintendent of Alvie Cater believes that this is especially beneficial for USD232.

“What’s helpful about the law is that the school district can determine how many seats are available,” Cater said. “We want to be conservative on that number, knowing that there is enrollment growth coming our way.”

Many student-athletes may see this as an opportunity to join a new team;  however, KSHSAA rules still apply: non-residential transferring students must sit out a year before being eligible for varsity competition. As a result, athletic director Brent Bechard explained that only incoming freshmen will be affected by the policy.

“The state association for athletics is still going to enforce their transfer rule, so the only main thing that [open enrollment] is going to change is for incoming freshmen who haven’t been established at a high school,” Bechard said. “They can establish at any high school that has space, so they could technically go to a place where they want to play sports, but that’s only going to be for freshmen.”

While this policy may be exciting for many families, it also presents capacity challenges for already growing school districts. According to Cater, USD232 will need to closely monitor future growth as they make decisions.

“The challenge for us is that we are a growing school district and if you look at our growth over the next five to ten years, we are going to see the number of students attending their schools increase,” Cater said. “The challenge then is how can we look at this at a point in time, so that we allow space for the families who are residing here.”

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