Dayton looks at reasons parents send students to other schools

Each student who leaves costs the district $6,200.


DAYTON -- Thirty-six families who live in the Dayton School District have chosen to send their school-age children to another district or educate them at home, and district officials decided to conduct an "exit survey" to help determine why families are making this choice.

The survey did not reveal a consistent reason for parents to enroll their children in another school, Superintendent Doug Johnson said in a presentation to the school board this week.

The surveys were mailed with a self-addressed return envelope to 36 families, and 13 responded.

The board asked Johnson to look into reasons students were leaving the district to help determine if there are measures the district can take to either bring them back or retain students in future years.

While the most frequently named reasons for families' decision to change schools were a matter of location or employment, there were also a significant number of respondents who named issues that could be attributed to bullying and harassment.

Some families prefer to send their students to another school because they live closer to that school. In other cases, parents who work outside Dayton have chosen to enroll their children in schools in the town where they work.

Areas of strength noted by the respondents included Dayton's appropriate class size, good food service and celebration of academic success.

Among other reasons given for changing schools were issues with their child's peer relationships, including issues with bullying and harassment.

The district is addressing bullying and harassment with Steps to Respect and Second Step programs. The programs promote building positive relationships as a way to combat bullying and harassment, Johnson said.

Five respondents said they felt there was a lack of educational progress for their student.

Johnson said the consideration behind this reason would "probably vary. It was an anonymous survey. But my belief is they just felt their kids were not doing well, and thought if they went somewhere else they would do well, or their kids were doing well, and if they went somewhere else they would do even better."

Johnson is not opposed to school choice.

"Philosophically I do have some beliefs that choice has some merits, while at the same time it gives me some heartburn," he said.

That heartburn is represented by the loss of $6,200 in revenue the district experiences each time a student leaves the district. The precise number of students who currently attend school elsewhere, but live in the district was not available, but if each of the 36 families had just one student, that would represent a loss of $223,200 for the district.

Current enrollment in the Dayton district is 447 full-time equivalent students, which is up by three or four students from earlier in the school year, Johnson said.

While the district can't directly address issues related to location or convenience for parents, it is working on the bullying and harassment problems.

Last week an elementary counseling program was re-implemented on a part-time basis. Among the counselor's duties is implementation of anti-bullying and harassment curriculum.

The curriculum has been in place, but it was part of regular classroom presentations.

"The difficult thing is, when we haven't had a counselor, and that type of thing is delivered by a teacher, the students don't take it as seriously," Johnson said.

Along with taking steps to help children relate with one another better, the district is looking to technology as another means to entice students back.

The district offers a K-12 online curriculum with a consortium of other schools in ESD 123 that is available to students who don't want to attend the school "in person."

"My hope is always that somehow if we remain connected that maybe the student will come back, and participate in activities," Johnson said.


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