Friday, June 19, 2015


Open Enrollment

Most Idaho school districts allow parents to enroll their students in a school within the district but outside of their designated  attendance area on a space available basis. In 2014-15  in the Boise District, for example, 2889 students (11.3% of total enrollment) were open-enrolled within the district. Reasons vary for open enrollment, from child care and proximity to parent's work to educational program.

Among elementary schools in the District, Owyhee, Washington, Whitney, and Monroe have the highest percentages of open enrollment, each with more than a third of their students open-enrolled from other areas of the District. Among secondary schools, East and Riverglen junior highs and Boise High School have more than 10% of their students open-enrolled from within the district.

In 2003, the Board of Trustees passed Policy 3113, Open Enrollment. The District had previously charged tuition for out-of-district students attending in the Boise District; 3113 allowed for out of district open enrollment on a space available basis without tuition. The Board passed the policy to help deal with enrollment decline due to a drop in kindergarten enrollment and relocation of families to valley locations for cheaper housing.

Out of district Open Enrollment grew steadily until the 2010-11 school year, when it leveled off at about 1150. It has remained at close to that level for the past five years, and currently stands at 1126, or about 4% of total District enrollment.

Most out of district open enrollment is into "border" schools; that is, schools that border other districts. Over 80% of out of district open enrollment is from the West Ada School District. Out of district elementary open enrollment is greatest into Amity, Owyhee, Valley View, and Pierce Park, and secondary into Capital High School and its two feeder junior high schools, Fairmont and Riverglen.  All of these schools but Owyhee are on the boundary with West Ada.

Open enrollment has provided choice for parents and their students since 2003. However, as schools in certain attendance areas in the District have filled up with in-attendance-area students, the District has had to restrict or curtail open enrollment, because our first obligation is to provide for attendance of our students at a neighborhood school. Once the needs of in-attendance -area students are met, we provide opportunities for those who live outside the attendance area but within the district, and then we allow out-of-district open enrollment when space is available.

Enrollment infill naturally happens as an uneven process across a city. For example, the chart below shows the growth of in-attendance-area enrollment at the four comprehensive Boise high schools in 2009, 2011, and 2014.

In-attendance area enrollment has grown by just over 200 at Boise High, and by almost 300 at Borah, but has remained stable at Capital and Timberline. District officials must monitor these trends to insure that choice is promoted in an equitable fashion, and must consider neighborhood growth as a principal factor in their decision-making.