Dear Band Families,
Our Mercer Island School District is considering open enrollment. By way of explanation, that means opening up space for students from off-island to attend Mercer Island schools. The rationale for open enrollment is:
* State funding for our schools depends on the actual count of students in the building. This funding pays the much of our staff costs. (As you may know, our district already receives inadequate funding from our state. We make up the difference with local levies, bonds, and our community’s generous donations.)
* We expect enrollment to drop in the coming few years. We know this from detailed demographic data and from current enrollment numbers which show markedly fewer students enrolled in the current 8th grade class than the graduating 12th grade class (and even fewer enrolled in the younger grades). This comes at a time when the district is still trying to recover from the additional expenses of COVID.
* With these demographic changes, our school district will need to cut teaching staff next year to maintain our budget. Fewer students means fewer teachers and fewer class offerings. Fewer students does not mean smaller class sizes.
Open enrollment would help prevent any staffing cuts, keep class sizes from increasing, and save many of our Fine Arts and CCR classes/pathways.
We cannot stress how important your voices are to all these decisions/policy developments by our district. Thank you for being thoughtful, creative, focused, and just plain wonderful partners as we work to provide the BEST educational experience for our island children.
On 2/8/2024 at the MISD school board meeting, there was a presentation that included the following details about open enrollment:
· Open enrollment at MISD would be for grades 8th through 12th (IMS and MIHS)
· Between 40-80 students would be invited into the schools
· The policies and the 'how' of open enrollment was presented
· Bellevue SD, Issaquah SD, Lake Washington SD (and others) are already open enrolling for this year
· There are clearly some board members who are pro and some who are con
· Response/feedback from the community has been minimal
· The board wants more study, more discussion (even though we are running out of time - staff will need to be informed of cuts in April)
· The number of 3.0 FTE (Full Time Equivalents) was shared openly as the cuts MIHS will face. In the world of education that is HUGE for our building. The impact will be devastating.
What we know as talking points/info:
· Enrollment drop is NOT because of people fleeing MISD because they don't like the curriculum. Enrollment drop is due to the King County drop in birthrates and no housing inventory on the island (realtors can sell anything fast . . . there just aren't houses to sell)
· Bellevue SD, Issaquah SD, Lake Washington SD and a bunch of others are already using Open Enrollment during their registration (which is happening now too). The argument that we would be 'taking' students from other districts is moot.
· Open Enrollment students are value added to our system. History proves this as we did this before and it was successful (ask any parent/student from that time)
Our Band Boosters board strongly supports open enrollment and the maintenance of current programming.
What to do with this information? First, we just want you to know since, if the school board decides not to pursue this, we will be cutting teachers and the main places that will happen will be in Fine Arts and CCR. We might be re-figuring course offerings and pathways for our students. There will be less. We are so not looking forward to that potential reality.
Second, if you wish, our school board is a great place to start with sharing your thoughts. They can be reached at this link: email@example.com That email goes to all 5 board members. There are two email templates circulating if you wish to use them or your own words. Your unique viewpoint of understanding what Band courses do for our children would be a wonderful lens to share.
As always, thank you!! This is a challenging time but the shining happy place for us is that we are surrounded by people like you who work for our island children and support what we are all trying to do to benefit them.