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Students flowing into Mitchell

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news Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Since 2009, the Mitchell School District has had a net gain of 106 open-enrolled students.

It’s the district’s largest five-year net gain since open enrollment was enacted in 1997, and it’s a trend Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves is pleased to see.

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“It’s a sign we’re offering a lot of programs that a lot of people want,” Graves said. “Customer choice is huge and is something that public schools were kind of inoculated against for most of the history of public schools.

“Today there’s a lot of choice going on. You can choose to go to a private school, choose home school and choose to open-enroll. Education is getting more and more market-driven, and that’s generally a positive thing.”

The state Department of Education is required to provide application forms for open enrollment to schools. That allows parents and guardians to place any student, kindergarten through 12th grade, in any public school they want, rather than being forced to attend a school based on district boundaries.

This school year, Mitchell had 95 new students enroll in the district and 71 leave. The net gain of 24 students is the second largest gain for Mitchell since open enrollment was enacted.

Many of the students who open-enrolled to Mitchell this year were from Mount Vernon, with 24

coming from there. There are 17 who came from Sanborn Central, 15 from Hanson, 10 from Ethan and eight each from Parkston and Bridgewater-Emery. Mitchell also gained students from eight other districts.

Last school year, the district had a net gain of 32 students.

During a five-year stretch from 2004 to 2009, Mitchell had a net loss of five students. Then, the 2009-10 school year started a run in which the district gained at least 15 students through open enrollment every year through this school year.

Graves said the district has conducted open-enrollment studies in the past, asking parents the reasons they enrolled their children to Mitchell or pulled them from the district.

He said they tend to come to Mitchell because they either want access to some of the specialized classes, because the parents attended MHS or because of extracurricular activities they want to participate in.

Graves said parents pull their students from Mitchell because they want a small-school environment, they want their child in the same school they attended, or because of athletics.

“We have a number of students whose parents don’t feel like they can be competitive in our athletic program, but they could in a smaller venue,” Graves said. “Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but that’s their perception.”

Graves said there is also a reason students both attend and leave Mitchell.

“They had a major conflict with someone, a major dissatisfaction at that school,” Graves said. “That can happen at Mitchell or at another school. Then they tend to say they want out of here and they leave.”

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