MCHS to be open to non-county students
By Kathryn Purcell
Visiting a policy that was closed three to four years ago, the Morgan County Board of Education voted unanimously to open enrollment for the 2008-2009 school year at Morgan County High School to out-of-county residents, as well as to hear public comment on the policy.
The class of rising ninth graders in Morgan County is about 40 students fewer than in previous years, according to Superintendent Stan DeJarnett. Further, as many as 14 out-of-county students, enrolled during the previous non-resident enrollment policy, will graduate this year.
Taking into account the possibility of incoming Morgan County residents that may enroll and the desire not to have to increase staff, the Board agreed that the addition of potential out-of-county residents should take the total number of students in the high school to 90 percent capacity, meaning space for 25 to 30 students.
"We are below 90 percent capacity at the high school because of flat enrollment growth," DeJarnett said. "We can open non-resident enrollment next fall, leave enough room for those who move into the county... Non-residents can fill empty seats at the high school."
The policy is set to be "first come, first serve," and once the 90 percent capacity is reached, non-resident enrollment at the high school will again be closed.
The cost of tuition for out-of-county residents to attend Morgan County High School is estimated to total $2,635 annually, and is based of the overall cost of education in Morgan County.
"Last year, the cost to educate a student was a little over $8,200," DeJarnett said. "A little more than half of that comes from the state, the rest is paid by tuition."
Further, the money received by Morgan County Schools from the state is based on the number of students enrolled in the system, no matter which county the students come from.
For Morgan County residents, the cost of education, after payment by the state, is covered by local taxpayers. For non-residents, the tuition paid will substitute for the amount paid for resident students by local taxpayers.
"The tuition amount is the cost to educate a child not living in the county for which taxpayers were not planning on supporting," DeJarnett said.
The cost of tuition may be broken into 10 payments of $263.50 per month, as students are in school for 10 months out of the year. And, as long as payments are kept in order, the students will keep their slots at the high school throughout their time there.
"Once they're in, as long as they continue to pay the tuition in a timely fashion, they can stay," DeJarnett said.
While enrollment at Morgan County High School will be open to non-residents, Morgan County buses will not be traveling outside the county line to pick up these students.
"School transportation will not be provided outside the limits of Morgan County," the policy states. "Non-resident students may be picked up at any existing school transportation pickup site within Morgan County."
The criteria for out-of-county residents to attend Morgan County High School is based on three factors -- attendance, disciplinary and academic records.
As far as attendance, the policy requires that non-resident students must have "fewer than 10 excused absences each year for a period of two years preceding the application of admission," the policy states.
Also, in regards to discipline, the non-resident students must have a good disciplinary record, "defined as a record of no suspensions or expulsions for a period of two years preceding the application of admission," the policy states.
Finally, as far as academic requirements, the policy stated that non-resident students must have a cumulative grade point average of 80 on a 100-point scale. Board member Dave Belton expressed concern that 80 was too low a grade point average for the incoming non-resident students.
"If we have kids coming across the line...we should make sure they are good kids and I think a 90 average is not too much to ask," Belton said.
Other members of the Board disagreed.
"Ninety seems a little high," Board member Bob Prior said. "If a kid in ninth grade, with one year under their belt, made 'B's, I'd hate not to give them the opportunity."
The Board came to a consensus in raising the grade point average required of incoming non-resident students to 85. However, they agreed to grant discretion on these requirements if an incoming non-resident student is involved in extenuating circumstances.
Morgan County High School Principal Mark Wilson expressed that he is receiving an increasing number of inquiries from out-of-county residents in regards to enrollment at the school, citing the current housing market and the inability of people to sell their homes and move as part of the reason for the inquiries. However, he feels that the high school can support the additional students.
"I don't anticipate such a drove of people to come that it would be a problem," Wilson said.