Schools downplay open enrollment fears



The Liberty School Task Force first meeting has been set for Tuesday.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
LIBERTY -- Many parents of pupils in the school system here want an end to policies permitting children from other districts to attend school here, but officials say that won't end all behavioral problems in the district.
Hundreds of parents addressed school administrators at a meeting earlier this week with myriad concerns including violence and bullying on campuses, pupil drug use, unsupervised pupils roaming hallways and other safety issues after a reported sexual assault at the high school.
Many of those attending that board of education meeting pointed to open enrollment as a key cause of some of the problems.
Board members will discuss the open enrollment issue during the next regularly scheduled board meeting at 6 p.m. March 14 in the community room at the high school.
According to records supplied by the school administration, the district has only 110 open enrollment pupils among its1,783 population. The majority of those -- 102 -- come from Youngstown. Two pupils are from each of the neighboring communities of Hubbard and Girard, two from Cortland, and one pupil each from Niles and Austintown.
Behavior monitored
Schools Superintendent Larry Prince said the behavior patterns of those 110 open enrollment pupils has been monitored and they pose no greater problem to the district than do pupils living in the district. Only a few have been problematic, he said.
The pupils represent a very typical cross-section of the district's population, with only four showing disciplinary problems.
According to Prince, the four pupils in question will go through a review process to determine if they will be permitted to attend school in the district next year. He did not say when that determination would be made.
Prince said the open enrollment policy, for the most part, has been successful. He said the board will be considering a limited open enrollment policy for next year, with a focus on incoming pupils in kindergarten and first grade.
Prince said if the district permits about 10 open enrollment pupils into those early grades each year, the district will ultimately meet its goal of 120 open enrollment pupils districtwide who have progressed through the system from the early years of their education.
"That is the continuity and stability that benefit both the student and the district," he said.
Task force formed
In an effort to address some of the concerns voiced by parents and find a solution to those problems, the school board has put together a task force of parents, school officials, pupils and police. The task force will be headed by board member Alyssa Lenhoff-Dann. Its first meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the community room at Liberty High School.
Anyone interested in contributing ideas to help shape the future of the schools is invited to attend.
"We want and need this input from the public," said board President Frank Gorsuch. "While it is sometimes painful to hear criticism of the district, we recognize that we must be responsive to concerns."
jgoodwin@vindy.com

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