Marshalltown want to address open enrollment, keep students here

T-R FILE PHOTO - School bus drop-off points are set to be discussed at a special Marshall County Board of Supervisors meeting Friday morning.

One of the top issues that has weighed on the minds of Marshalltown Schools officials has been open enrollment, with hundreds of students whose families choose to go to other school districts rather than stay in Marshalltown annually.

For school board members, stemming open enrollments out of the district is one of many priorities.

“We tried surveying families in the past and we haven’t got a lot of response, which is somewhat understandable,” said board member Ben Fletcher. “Anecdotally, there are a lot of different reasons.”

He said he has heard everything from families who live on the border of the district choosing to go elsewhere to families who work in another town and want their kids to go to school in that town. Fletcher also said perceptions of Marshalltown Schools also play a role in the number of open enrollments out.

“Open enrollment is both kind of a symptom and a cause,” he said. “The open enrollments that might be caused by a perception of the reputation of the Marshalltown School District, those are the ones that we want to make sure we’re addressing.”

One major group Fletcher said needs to be focused on is families who choose to open enroll their student before they get a chance to experience Marshalltown Schools.

“They never really got engaged with the district and may not know a whole lot firsthand,” he said.

Board Vice President Janelle Carter said the reasons for local families to have their children go to Marshalltown Schools are manifold.

“We feel that Marshalltown Community School District is a great place to educate your kids,” she said.

Fletcher said along with educational opportunities like a dual-language program and more class offerings than smaller surrounding school districts, Marshalltown offers students more options for extracurricular activities.

Carter said the number of students who leave the district each year is also a budgetary problem. Each student carries with them about $6,700 in state funding when they go to another school.

Both board members said better marketing of the advantages and opportunities offered to students at Marshalltown Schools could be key to retaining more students each year.

“We’re always trying to get better,” Carter said. “There are great things happening every day, there are great stories.”

Marshalltown open enrollment, by the numbers

Here’s a breakdown of the open enrollment in and out of the Marshalltown School District for this school year based on certified enrollment numbers provided by the district:

2018-19 open enrollment

Out:

• 208 to East Marshall

• 144 to Green Mountain-Garwin

• 133 to West Marshall

• 44 to BCLUW

• 10 to CAM Community School District

• 6 to both South Tama and Baxter

• 5 to both Ames and Clayton Ridge

• 3 to both Des Moines and Marion

• 1 to Newton

Total students open enrolled out: 568

In:

• 25 from East Marshall

• 16 from West Marshall

• 13 from South Tama County

• 11 from Green Mountain-Garwin

• 9 from BCLUW

• 7 from Gladbrook-Reinbeck

• 1 from both Grinnell-Newburg and Newton

Total students open enrolled in: 83