Open enrollment period begins

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News (From left): Rock County Christian School (RCCS) students Zachary Molander, Marajha El-Amin, Caleb Gaston and Silas Stalcup work during study hall. RCCS plans to accept more choice students this year. Choice open enrollment opened Feb. 1 and will run until April 20.

BELOIT - With open enrollment season in full swing, those at both public and private schools are looking forward to attracting new students.

The public school open enrollment application period runs from Feb. 6 to April 28, and the private school enrollment period runs from Feb. 1 until April 20.

"We are excited about new opportunities to work with more local families and help their students achieve their academic, spiritual and social goals," said Rock County Christian School (RCCS) Head of School Tim Befus.

RCCS continues to attract more students since it became part of the Wisconsin School Choice Program in 2013. The program has 222 private schools registered for the 2018-2019 academic year, according to information from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

At RCCS's two campuses - middle and high school in Beloit and elementary in Janesville - it has an overall enrollment of 203 students, with 130 of those being choice students. At its Beloit campus it has 99 students, with 67 being choice students. Befus said capacity would allow the school to take up to another 70 to 75 choice students, although it would more likely accept around 30 more students.

Enrollment in the statewide voucher program in 2018-19 is limited to 3 percent of a given school district's student population.

To qualify for the program for the 2018-19 school year, a new student must have a family income equal to or less than 220 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $54,120 for a family of four or $61,120 if the child's parents or guardians are married.

Students, such as RCCS senior Zachary Molander encourages interested families to apply for the voucher family. He started attending the school in eighth grade after leaving the Clinton School District where he said he was unhappy because of what he considered inappropriate behavior by other students. He also said he prefers a more Christian atmosphere.

"I have the opportunity to go to school with teachers who have beliefs I do and can express those beliefs," Molander said.

Molander's enjoyed many opportunities at the school such as playing basketball and soccer, serving on a leadership team which mentors students, traveling to Costa Rica and being part of the entrepreneurship team.

Public school open enrollment is also increasing. It has steadily grown since it began in the 1998-99 school year. In the first year, 2,464 students transferred from their home district to a nonresident public school district. The program has grown over the years with 55,737 students transferring through open enrollment during the 2015-2016 school year.

Beloit Turner Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said the district continues to encourage families who are looking for a smaller school environment with tremendous opportunities in academics, extracurriculars and the arts to consider open enrollment to the School District of Beloit Turner. There will be a number of openings in the lower grade levels, but there is a very limited space in its middle and high school grades.

"Our district does not believe in actively advertising or recruiting for open enrollment students, as we believe students and families understand the strong reputation of the School District of Beloit Turner. We do not see open enrollment as a competition between districts, but rather an opportunity for families to consider all we have to offer and whether they see themselves wanting to be a part of our district," McCarthy said.

The School District of Beloit will be hosting Elementary Enrollment Nights in March. The goal is to give new families an opportunity to meet staff, tour facilities and enroll their students. Although these special events are designed with the 4K and 5K student in mind, all grade levels are welcome.

In addition, the district will be providing special support for families to help students transition to the intermediate school with third grade visits to intermediate schools as well as special community nights.

"We welcome all families to come in and to learn what we have to offer; including class sizes at approximately 20 students, technology integration in all classrooms, excellent educators, and many curricular and extra curricular opportunities for students to explore, learn and grow," said School District of Beloit Public Information Officer Jennifer Thompson.

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