The Public School Student Regular Open Enrollment application period for the 2022-23 school year opened on February 7, 2022, and will remain open until 4:00 PM on April 29, 2022. Open enrollment affords parents/guardians an opportunity to apply for their children to attend public school in a nonresident district tuition free. Under the open enrollment statute, i.e., Wis. Stat. § 118.51, parents/guardians may submit up to three (3) applications to nonresident school districts to allow their children to attend brick-and-mortar schools. Nothing in the open enrollment statute, however, limits the number of applications a parent/guardian may submit to allow their children to attend a virtual charter school. Moreover, any applications submitted to virtual charter schools may not be counted for purposes of the application limitations applicable to brick-and-mortar schools.
When a nonresident school district receives a student’s open enrollment application, that school district must consider whether the application should be approved or denied. A nonresident school district may deny an application for any of the six (6) reasons detailed below, provided the nonresident school board has adopted a policy inclusive of the identified reason.
Availability of Space
A nonresident school district may deny a student’s application for open enrollment based upon the availability of space in its schools, programs, classes, or grades. Such a determination must be based on the number of regular and special education spaces deemed available by the school board in its January meeting. After a school board designates the number of available spaces, that number may not be revised during the application period and the nonresident district must fill those spaces if the district receives enough qualifying applications. If a school board does not take action to designate space limitations during its January meeting, the school district may not deny any student’s application based upon the availability of space in its schools, programs, classes, or grades, even if the school district has concerns about the space available in a particular program, class, or grade.
A nonresident school district may deny a student’s application for open enrollment if the student is currently under an expulsion order.
Prior Expulsion or Pending Disciplinary Proceeding
A nonresident school district may deny a student’s application for open enrollment based upon the student having been expelled during the preceding two (2) school years. In addition, a nonresident school district may deny a student’s application based upon the student being the subject of a pending disciplinary proceeding. In either circumstance, the nonresident district may only deny the application if the expulsion or disciplinary proceeding involve(d) any of the following:
- conveying a bomb threat or causing such a threat to be conveyed;
- engaging in conduct at school or while under school supervision that endangered the health, safety, or property of others;
- engaging in conduct outside of school and not while under school supervision that endangered the health, safety, or property of others at school or under school supervision, or of any school employee or board member; or
- possessing a dangerous weapon, as defined in Wis. Stat. § 939.22(10), while at school or under school supervision.
A nonresident school district may terminate the open enrollment status of any student who has been habitually truant from the nonresident school district during any semester of the current or preceding school year. In Wisconsin, a student is considered habitually truant if the student has been absent from school without any acceptable excuse for part or all of five (5) or more days on which school is held during a semester.
Availability of Special Education or Related Services
A nonresident school district may deny the open enrollment application of any student if the special education or related services identified in the student’s individualized education program (IEP) are unavailable in the nonresident school district.
Pending Evaluation by IEP Team
A nonresident school district may deny the open enrollment application of a student who has been referred for a special education evaluation if the student has not yet been evaluated by an IEP team appointed by the student’s resident school district.
In addition to the five (5) reasons listed above, both resident and nonresident districts can deny a student’s open enrollment application if any of the following apply:
- The parent/guardian submits the application outside of the open-enrollment window (i.e., before February 7, 2022 or after 4:00 PM on April 29, 2022);
- The parent/guardian submits an application missing necessary information;
- The student is age ineligible; or
- The resident school district does not offer the same type of program (Note: this reason only applies to applications for prekindergarten, 4-year-old kindergarten, or early child care programs).
Timelines and Deadlines
For purposes of the Public School Student Regular Open Enrollment application period for the 2022-23 school year, nonresident school boards must not act on any student’s application for open enrollment until May 1, 2022, and must notify the student’s parent/guardian by June 10, 2022, whether the application has been approved or denied. For any notice of approval, the nonresident school district must identify the specific school or program the student has been designated to attend. Thereafter, the parent/guardian has until June 24, 2022, to notify the nonresident school district of their child’s intent to attend school in the nonresident school district for the 2022-2023 school year. For any denial, the nonresident school district must identify the reason for the denial. Thereafter, the parent/guardian has thirty (30) calendar days to appeal the denial.
Resident school boards must notify the parent/guardian and the nonresident school board, in writing, if the student’s open enrollment application has been denied by June 17, 2022. Thereafter, the parent/guardian has thirty (30) calendar days to appeal the denial.
Aside from adhering to the dates identified in this article, school boards are encouraged to review their policies on a regular basis in order to ensure that the reasons for denial described above have been adopted in their open enrollment policies.
It is important to remember that there is a Public School Student Alternative Open Enrollment process with different procedures and dates as compared with the information provided herein.
For questions regarding this article, please contact the author,
or your Renning, Lewis & Lacy attorney.
Laura E. Pedersen
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