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Will the Mabel-Canton open enrollment issue be settled at the Monday night Decorah School Board meeting?

Posted: Thu, Jun 8, 2017 4:46 PM

"The Iowa Department of Education has done no one any favors with their ruling." That is what Superintendent Mike Haluska is telling Decorah School Board members as they prepare to deal with an open enrollment request for a student to Mabel-Canton Schools. He also says the Department of Education is being inconsistent with their rulings elsewhere.

Haluska appears to be supporting the open enrollment for Robbie Michels. He says that open enrollment question needs to be resolved in a way that will allow them to move into the next complicated steps of reorganization; including taxes, property and debt issues. Many residents of the North Winneshiek School District have strong interest in open enrollment to Mabel-Canton opportunities. Their presence was strong at a joint meeting of the two school boards earlier this week.

Although the Decorah School Board will likely come to a decision about the one specific student, the issues are not going to be resolved Monday night.

The recent Department of Education ruling that provided direction does not leave much flexibility for individual circumstances. The student  can enroll in Mabel-Canton and pay tuition since he is still a resident of the Decorah district and not a resident of Mabel-Canton; or he can enroll in Mabel-Canton without tuition if: a) Decorah enters into an agreement with Mabel-Canton for a resident student of Iowa to attend Mabel-Canton if the student resides closer to Mabel-Canton than any appropriate attendance center in the student's district of residence; or b) Decorah enters into a sharing agreement with Mabel-Canton involving groups of students in discontinued secondary grades (Not truly an option because Decorah is a PK-12 district, unlike North Winneshiek that will only be a PK-6 district beginning next year).

Haluska notes that the decision will only be a two year agreement, until the proposed reorganization date of July 2019.  Any decisions regarding students beyond that point would need to be made by a future board of the newly constituted school district.

The ruling by the Department of Education allows no discrimination for individual circumstance regarding who can/can't be included in an agreement. "It's not as simple as creating an agreement that simply allows those who have sent siblings to Mabel-Canton to allow their remaining children to complete an education there." The Department of Education ruling has made this an "All or None" situation.

Also, because students can only attend the attendance center closest to them in an out-of-state open enrollment, this becomes a de facto one-way agreement. Since it's impossible for a student in Mabel-Canton to live closer to Decorah than Mabel-Canton, Decorah could never receive students from MC. It would never be anything for the Decorah or the future district other than "open enrollment out."

(article based on notes for the upcoming June 12 Decorah Community School Board meeting)