Fact Check No. 2: Out-of-district students
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This is the second installment in Steamboat Pilot & Today’s “Fact Check” series on key topics related to the Referendums 4B and 4C — Steamboat Springs Board of Education’s proposed $79.5 million bond and associated mill levy.
Why does Steamboat accept out-of-district students while claiming the schools are at or over capacity?
It’s an argument brought up with frequency. Opponents of the ballot issues claim that if the Steamboat Springs School District stopped taking out-of-district students, there wouldn’t be a need for a new school.
Colorado is an open enrollment state
For starters, Colorado school districts are required to accept applications from out-of-district students by law. In Colorado, “students can choose to attend their assigned neighborhood school or “choice in” to another public school within their district or even outside their district,” according to the Colorado Department of Education.
Under the law, a district may deny enrollment to out-of-district students if “there is a lack of space or teaching staff within a particular program or school requested, in which case, priority shall be given to resident students applying for admission to such program or school.”
There are other reasons a district can deny students whether they are residents or from other districts, including not offering appropriate programming to meet special needs or not meeting “eligibility criteria for participation in a particular program, including age requirements, course prerequisites, and required levels of performance.” Other conditional terms include schools being under a desegregation plan or if a student has been expelled.
Within the parameters of the law, districts also have their own policies.
Steamboat School District accepts out-of-district students on a case-by-case, grade-by-grade and year-by-year basis, and only where there is space and programming to serve them.
The district does not accept additional out-of-district students if it means adding staff.
The district allows children of staff who live out of district to enroll in the district.
In Steamboat, siblings of out-of-district students are not guaranteed a spot.
If a student starts out in Steamboat, and then their family moves out of district, Steamboat does not make them leave. By law, Steamboat is only obligated to keep an (accepted) out-of-district student through the end of the school year.
Arguments against accepting out-of-district students:
• It is a contradiction for the district to allow in out-of-district students while at the same time saying that schools are overcrowded
• Stop accepting out-of-district students, and the need for a new school goes away.
• Why should property owners in Steamboat pay higher taxes to accommodate students of families who aren’t paying those same taxes?
Arguments in favor of accepting out-of-district students:
• With 111 out-of-district students as of Oct. 1 (or 4.2% of the total student body), the impact is minimal.
• The community has already expressed an interest in sharing resources to benefit the whole county. In 2009, Steamboat voters decided to extend the half-cent education sales tax and share it with other Routt County public schools, including South Routt, Hayden and Mountain Village Montessori Charter School.
• More students equals more money for the schools.
What do other districts look like?
During the 2018-19 school year, out-of-district students made up more than 15% of the student population in the Hayden School District. The South Routt School District had nearly the same percentage as Steamboat.
The Aspen School District, which this year started a lottery system to fill open slots, was composed of close to 12% out-of-district students during the 2018-19 school year.
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