BERLIN - The Board of Education unanimously voted Monday to offer 148 Hartford Open Choice seats throughout the district for the 2018-19 school year.
Each seat is designated to a student from the Hartford school district. The program aims to increase diversity in school districts by allowing students from the Hartford district to attend suburban schools.
Greater attention to each student’s learning difficulties and outside-of-school struggles helped greatly, five Open Choice students said in a video presentation. One student said if it wasn’t for coming to Berlin he didn’t think he would have graduated.
The total number of spots includes 81 seats for students already enrolled in the program expecting to return.
Ten of the students from this year’s program will be graduating out and one student withdrew from the program for next year. The remaining 67 are being offered to projected new students.
The number this year is 44 seats more than last year. School Superintendent Brian Benigni said about 100 seats are expected to be filled next year.
He said enrollment has been on a downward trend the past five years.
The numbers were chosen by appropriate fit at each school based on enrollment numbers and efforts to keep siblings in the program at the same school, Benigni said.
The district also tried to have students enter a school at an appropriate entry grade, such as sixth grade over seventh and eighth grade at the middle school.
With the expected seat fulfillment, the district crosses a threshold of having Open Choice students represent greater than 3 percent of the district’s total enrollment. The district will thus receive $6,000 per Open Choice student to cover the cost of transportation and additional resources that may be needed to bring students up to the appropriate grade level of understanding.
Board member Julia Dennis asked if allowing so many seats for Hartford students puts a strain on resources for the local students already enrolled in the district. She said she had asked that question by parents in town.
Director of Pupil Personnel Services Linda Holian explained that the district has the ability to bill back to Hartford any additional services needed for a student that exceed $6,000.
Because of that, students originally enrolled in the district shouldn’t see an impact on resources they would expect, she said.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or email@example.com.