PLATTEVILLE — One natural question stemming from the closing of St. Mary School June 1 is: Where will the students go next school year?
One obvious answer is into Platteville public schools. Platteville Superintendent of Schools Connie Valenza told the School Board Monday that about 40 students are projected to be transferring to Platteville Public Schools.
Another 20 are tentatively planning to attend St. Rose School in Cuba City, Valenza said.
As a result, Valenza said the school district may have to add a section of sixth grade, but there is “nothing for certain yet until we have kids in the door and we know how many we have.”
Platteville Middle School Principal Lisa Finnegan said St. Mary’s parents have been touring the middle school. The school district met with St. Mary’s parents after the closing was announced in late April.
“They’re coming in just like any new student to make a choice,” she said.
The St. Mary’s closing is expected to have a much bigger impact than open enrollment. As of now, 26 students have applied to open-enroll into Platteville schools, with another 33 expected to continue in the school district. Thirty-three students have applied to open-enroll out of Platteville schools, with another 25 already open-enrolling into other school districts.
“You can close [students] to open-enrollment, but if a student moves into the district you have to enroll them,” said Valenza. “The same applies to St. Mary students.”
Net open-enrollment numbers are down from the 2010–11 and 2011–12 school years, when the school district gained 10 net students — 65 open-enrolling in, 55 open-enrolling out each school year.
“There isn’t really an overall increase from last year to this year, and I’m a little surprised by that,” said Valenza.
Both figures are unclear because students can apply for open enrollment to more than one school district, and the student need not commit to a school district until classes begin in September. The state Legislature changed the open-enrollment period from three weeks to three months, and added several exceptions that allow students to open-enroll anytime during a school year, if they were the victim of a violent criminal offense or “repeated bullying or harassment,” have been homeless within the past school year, moved because of a parent’s military orders, moved into Wisconsin, moved because of a custody agreement or court order, or moved because of being placed into foster care.
The other question about the St. Mary closing is what happens to the O.E. Gray building, which has hosted St. Mary’s School.
The School Board voted to renew its lease with Head Start for the 2012–13 school year. Head Start has taken one of the three O.E. Gray rooms not used by St. Mary’s. The school district uses the other two.
“It’s going to cost several thousand dollars to keep it in good repair,” said Art Beaulieu, the school district’s director of business and auxiliary services. The school district is considering “possibly trying to find new renters for the building, and it’s much easier to do that if you have an active building than if it’s in mothballs.”