Some Milwaukee area schools lose students; enrollment up at virtual schoolsMore than half the school districts in the four-county Milwaukee metro area saw enrollment decreases at the start of this school year, but enrollment is up in some of Wisconsin's largest virtual charter schools.
By: The Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MILWAUKEE (AP) — More than half the school districts in the four-county Milwaukee metro area saw enrollment decreases at the start of this school year, but enrollment is up in some of Wisconsin's largest virtual charter schools.
Data released by the state last week that provides a preliminary count of kids in public schools shows 30 of the 51 school districts in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties counted fewer students this September than last fall.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10 of 13 virtual schools that responded to reporters' inquiries reported at least a 15 percent increase in enrollment. Seven gained at least 30 percent more students.
Last year 25 virtual charter schools around the state enrolled a total of 4,907 students, according to state data. This year there are 28 virtual charter schools.
State enrollment counts are important because they help determine how much state funding a district receives and how much money it can raise under state-imposed revenue caps.
The increase in virtual school enrollment comes on the heels of new state legislation that lengthened the period for families to enroll in the state's open enrollment program. In 2011-'12, more than 37,300 students used the program to attend a school outside their home district.
The legislation may have benefited virtual programs and other charter schools because they could spend more time recruiting students. But it's caused headaches for district leaders and business managers trying to keep track of where kids are and how much state aid money should come or go with them.
"It's a conundrum," said Blake Peuse, superintendent of the Northern Ozaukee School District. "It was more predictable even just a few years ago."
Wisconsin Virtual Learning, the charter school in Northern Ozaukee, increased enrollment to 724 students this year, up more than 17 percent from last year.
Waukesha's eAchieve Academy, a middle and high school, grew to 264 students this year, up 30 percent from last year's 203 students.
Christopher Schulteis, logistics and marketing manager at eAchieve, attributed the increase to the school's growing popularity since opening in 2004 and a longer window for the state's open enrollment program.
"We had a big push at the beginning of the open enrollment period, a lull in the middle and a big rush at the end," Schulteis said. "It's the same kind of pattern as other years, but it's just drawn out a little longer."
Chetek-Weyerhaeuser School District's Link2Learn Virtual Charter School saw the largest increase, more than doubling in size from 26 students to 58. The state's largest online program, the McFarland School District'sWisconsin Virtual Academy, added 906 students for a nearly 86 percent increase.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com