Open enrollment for Manatee County high schools kicked off Monday morning.
Although in the recent past, the Office of Student Assignment would be swarmed with parents on the first day of open enrollment, on Monday after a small morning rush, the offices were quiet.
Alicia Carrillo, the district’s school choice specialist, credits that to two factors: parents have learned to file their requests online, and the department’s move to remote offices behind Lincoln Middle School keeps the crowds at bay.
But, Carrillo said just because the offices were empty does not mean her staff has not been at work. The office had processed about 70 online applications by noon Monday.
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Capacity is the number one issue.
- Alicia Carrillo, Manatee’s school choice specialist
She said the applications are processed through a computer analysis that determines whether or not the choice is granted. And, while exceptions can be granted for students whose parent teaches at a school or has a sibling at a school, for the most part it comes down to space.
“Capacity is the number-one issue,” Carrillo said.
In Manatee County, that means students hoping to attend Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto or Braden River high schools should not get their hopes up. All three schools do not have much room to spare, according to Carrillo.
Changes in education law
New state statutes have opened up enrollment options for Florida families.
Under HB 7029, students can attend any school in the state as long as there is capacity, the student meets behavioral requirements and they have transportation. Known as controlled open enrollment, the move has some administrators worried about massive exoduses from struggling districts.
However, Carrillo said she did not anticipate the new law having a large impact on Manatee.
Manatee already has open-enrollment agreements with Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Arcadia and Polk counties, which capture most of the students who would transfer into or out of the county, Carrillo said.
And, according to Danny Lundeen, the District Supervisor of Student Demographics, Projections and Assignment, that arrangement has worked smoothly.
We have very consistent patterns, and we control it with capacity issues. So it hasn't been a real nightmare for us.
- Danny Lundeen, Manatee’s Supervisor of Student Demographics, Projections and Assignment
“We already have people coming and going from Sarasota, Hillsborough into here and from Manatee to other counties out of here,” Lundeen said. “We have very consistent patterns, and we control it with capacity issues. So it hasn't been a real nightmare for us.”
The new law also stipulates that once out-of-district students are accepted to a school, they are guaranteed that spot for the remainder of their time in that school. In the past, students needed to reapply annually.
Open enrollment for high school runs from Jan. 9 to 20, middle school open enrollment runs from Feb. 6 to 17, and elementary school open enrollment runs from March 6 to 17.