The debate over changing the open enrollment policy for Rosa International Middle School has been one of the biggest in Cherry Hill Public Schools over the last few years.
After hearing complaints about parents who enter their children in the Rosa lottery and then decline their spots when selected, the Board of Education has been holding many discussions about making changes to the policy to reduce the number of complaints and hurt feelings.
“We’ve gotten more comments on this topic than anything in the last three years,” Superintendent Maureen Reusche said.
At a meeting of the board’s policy and legislation committee last week, the principals from the three middle schools attended to provide input on the proposed changes.
The big change being talked about would be that a student who submits an open enrollment application will be required to attend Rosa if selected.
Along with the change to the application process, the waiting list for Rosa will be eliminated. If a student is not selected for Rosa, he or she would attend either Beck Middle School or Carusi Middle School, based on the district’s boundary guidelines. Beck and Carusi are not open enrollment schools.
The goal of both proposals would be to deter students who apply to Rosa so they can go there just in case their friends are selected as well. There have been numerous cases of students getting selected for Rosa, but then declining their spot because their friends weren’t selected as well.
“If all you cared about was keeping your group together, you could just send your kids to your neighborhood school,” Steve Robbins, the chairman for the board’s policy committee, said.
Many of the complaints about the open enrollment policy currently in place revolve around there being a lot of hurt feelings and stress in the process.
However, some at the meeting felt the proposed changes would still not make everyone happy.
Rosa Principal Ed Canzanese said he believed eliminating the waiting list wouldn’t be the best idea.
“We had three students come into Rosa in the eighth grade this year for whatever reason,” Canzanese said. “Parents will want the waiting list for that.”
Dennis Perry, principal of Beck Middle School, believed the problems with the open enrollment system aren’t as bad as they used to be.
“I’ve had less and less conversations about that disappointment,” he said.
Resuche stated that in the comments parents have submitted online, the majority of them suggested that Rosa should become a geographic school. However, she acknowledged that such a suggestion is not on the table during these discussions, mainly because of the large amount of logistical work that would be involved.
What did appear on the table last week was giving children from Johnson Elementary School the choice of open enrollment for middle school. Johnson is the only elementary school where students go to either Beck or Carusi.
After some debate about open enrollment for Johnson students, the committee agreed to take the discussion to the board’s next work session meeting.
Reusche warned the committee that if any changes are to be made in time for the 2014–15 school year, the clock is ticking. With the application process for Rosa beginning in January, a decision will be made soon on whether the open enrollment process will be changed.