Kansas school districts could soon allow open enrollment for students

Southeast Kansas school districts like Columbus already allow open enrollment.

COLUMBUS, Kan.– Kansas students could soon transfer to any public school in the state, even if they aren’t a resident of that district.

It’s part of a mega bill and would require each school district’s board of education to determine a capacity for the district to accept out-of-district students by January 1, 2024.

Schools could deny students due to students’ history of absenteeism, or suspensions and expulsions.

The Columbus School District has already taken in some out-of-district students.

“Some districts are better fits than other districts for students,” said Brian Smith, Superintendent of the Columbus School District. 

In Columbus and even other Southeast Kansas School districts, Smith says he’s seen, out-of-district students.

“Gosh, this has been going on pretty well my whole entire career…you’ve been allowed to go to other districts,”

Smith says it can benefit students in a number of ways, from academics to sports, to help students find what works best for their needs. Although, it does get a bit tricky.

“They have to set out a period of time if they change schools unless they make a bona fide move. In other words, they move into that district. So if they were the neighboring district and they wanted to come to play basketball because you had a better basketball team, they’d have to sit out a period of time. So most don’t want to do that.”

Smith says another issue that comes up is school bonds, and taxpayers being affected by students who don’t live in the area.

“On bond issues, if you’re building new buildings, the taxpayers in that district are paying for that, like here in the Columbus district, we don’t receive any state aid. So if you did accept out-of-district students, they wouldn’t necessarily be carrying their fair share. But we have no control over that now. Before we could say, no, we want to accept them. But now with this law that’s changed.”

Although the district doesn’t have many out-of-district students, to begin with, and hasn’t run into too many issues.

“It’s never been an issue for us. I think if you’re taking a lot of students. But, you know, here at Columbus, maybe we have one or two students per grade level. So it’s not a lot of students that are out of district.”

The final version of the bill would require each school district’s board of education to determine the capacity for the district to accept out-of-district students by 2024.

The bill also states that districts are not required to provide transportation for non-resident students.