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School board looks into what makes local students look elsewhere

Independent School District 192 is trying to get a better picture of why parents who live in the district choose not to send their children to district schools.

According to a recently released demographic study the district had 535 resident students enrolled in public schools outside of District 192 in the 2008-09 school year. That includes 91 students who attend classes in Intermediate School District 917. There were 150 local students who were enrolled in non-public schools or who were home schooled.

The district conducted a parent listening session Feb. 17 and held an online survey in February and March to find out what led people outside the district. The results don't paint a definitive picture of families' motivation -- only eight families participated in the listening session and 38 people filled out the survey -- but it gives the district a place to start.

District communication specialist Aaron Tinklenberg said the district will use the information gathered from parents to identify areas where it can improve, but also to help gauge how much parents know about the options the district provides. He said many of the people who participated in the district's survey did not know the district offers 11 AP courses or that it has Project Lead the Way for students interested in science or technical education.

"Some of it will be informing what kinds of programs we offer. Some of it will be just how do we communicate what we already have," Tinklenberg said. "It does give us an idea where to start."

Keeping students in local schools is important for school districts, which receive state funding through a formula based on the number of students enrolled.

According to the results of the listening session and the survey faith-based preference was the most common reason for enrolling students outside of the local school district, with 29 percent of respondents identifying that as their primary motivation. Educational opportunities was the next most common reason with 25 percent and 20 percent of people who responded said they'd had a negative experience in the district.

Asked to identify their secondary reason for choosing another district 30 percent of respondents chose educational opportunities and 24 percent chose class size.

Nearly half of parents who responded to the district's questions indicated they plan to put their children back into district schools at some point. 11 percent said they plan to enroll their children after eighth grade.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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