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While the Muskego-Norway Schools have room for 21 nonresident transfer students this fall, New Berlin expects to be bursting at the seams and won't accept any for a seventh year.

Every January, state school officials want school boards to approve any extra classroom seats for potential filling by nonresident students who want to go school outside their home districts. They can enroll under the state Open Enrollment program.

Each open enrollment student brings $6,748 in state money to the receiving school district.

The last time New Berlin had room for open enrollment students was in the 2008-09 school year. Muskego-Norway opened up 14 seats for this year.

Available open enrollment seats are not always filled, however, due usually to time and distance. Parents supply transportation for their children.

No waiting list

In New Berlin, space has been so tight for so long that this month the school board decided not to offer parents the opportunity to be on a waiting list anymore.

"We eliminated the waiting list because we hadn’t had any new open enrollment seats for many years, and felt the waiting list gave families a false sense of hope that their open enrollment request to attend our district would be approved," said David Cotey, director of communications.

"This policy change may encourage families to look at alternatives and maximize their chances to open enroll in another district," he said, noting that families may apply in as many as three school districts.

Space is especially tight in New Berlin's high schools. For example, in junior and senior English next year, the schools have just enough classrooms to hold all the students expected to enroll, while still keeping class sizes at the 22-student maximum, according to district data.

Core subjects key

There has to be enough room for new students in the core subjects for the schools to accept nonresident students.

The fullness story is nearly the same in junior math and science and in freshman social studies where the wiggle room is only one student in each subject.

New Berlin schools have 32 open enrollment students this year. Fourteen will graduate in June.

The Muskego-Norway schools have 151 open enrollment students, of whom 13 will graduate at the end of the school year. The 21 available open enrollment seats would more than make up for those 13 who are leaving. Eleven of the 21 seats for this fall are in the kindergarten for 4-year-olds. The remaining 10 are split evenly between the freshman and sophomore classes at Muskego High School.

"That's where we have room," School Board President Rick Petfalski said.

Win-win

The open enrollment program has been good for the district and good for open enrollment students, he said.

Without adding teachers, Muskego-Norway expects to receive an additional $112,016 if all the additional open enrollment seats are filled next year.

The high school seats would bring in $6,748 each and the kindergarten, $4,048 each. The kindergarten funding is less because it is funded at 60 percent of a full-time student.

"From a financial point of view, absolutely," it has been helpful, Petfalski said. "We have more students coming in than we have exiting and state aid is based on the head count."

Like resident students

Open enrollment students are as able to keep up as resident students are, he said.

"They are no different than the resident kids," some do well, some have to work harder, he said.

However, open enrollment students probably get a push from their parents who care so much about their children's education that they provide transportation, he said.

"The effort they are making to make sure their children get a better education shows they are more involved in the educational process," he said. The best indicator of academic success is the support students get at home, he said.

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