Home Schooling Main Reason for Departures from Cedar Rapids Schools

By Meryn Fluker, Reporter

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By Jay Knoll

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - It’s no secret that students have been leaving the Cedar Rapids Community School District. On Monday, the school board finally got a glimpse of why.

At the board’s regular meeting, Executive Administrator of Instructional Services Sandy Stephen presented the results of a survey gauging responses from 134 families whose children open enrolled out of the district for the 2011-12 school year. Their responses represent only a portion of the 1,334 students who live within the Cedar Rapids boundaries but opt to attend school in another district. Of those students, 504 open enroll in order to remain in their former school district and they were not surveyed further.

The number one reason why families open enroll to another district is the Marion Independent School District’s Home School Assistance Program. Twenty percent of respondents cited it as their rationale. Convenience – such as proximity to work and home – was the second most popular explanation, which represented 17 percent of the responses. Size was the third most-frequent response at 13 percent, with half of those parents citing concerns about elementary classes being too big.

Of the surveyed families, 159 open enrolled into the Marion district and 132 selected to send their students to the Linn-Mar Community School District. College Community School District was the third largest pool of polled parents, with 75 families represented in the survey.

In the corridor, Cedar Rapids falls in the middle when it comes to open enrollment rates. With 10.77 percent and 8.1 percent respectively, the Marion and Linn-Mar districts have outward open-enrollment rates that trump Cedar Rapids’ 5.56 percent. However, College Community’s 4.24 percent and Iowa City’s 2.99 percent are lower.

Multiple board members pushed better marketing and communication as ways to stop the bleeding.

“I have a tough time getting a handle on anything that we could do to effectively address open enrollment,” said board member Gary Anhalt. "We could maybe do a better job with advertising some of the strong points we do have. There could be some misperception about some of the things that go on in our district … I don’t see any major efforts that we could do at this point."

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