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The Budget

The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

USD 497 approves new open borders enrollment policy

Non-resident students will soon have option to transfer into district
Emily Hurd

Imagine a school district that you could easily transfer to no matter where you live in the state of Kansas.

Now imagine you’re an athlete, who doesn’t feel supported by their current coach or who wants to be a part of a stronger program.

With the new open enrollment policy recently approved by the district, this will soon be a reality for non-resident student athletes and students wanting to join USD 497. The new policy opens up USD 497’s borders to many more students, whether or not they live within district boundaries. This will help to create more fluidity of boundaries as well as more diversity within the district. 

Governor Laura Kelly’s House Bill 2567 was approved in May of 2023, making over a dozen education policy changes, including this open borders policy. The School Board Policy Committee approved the motion 6-0, making the policy a reality in USD 497. It has implications for athletics as well as diversity and equity within the district. 

“I think it’s a great place to be. I think it’s a place that people should want to be. But at the same time, when you think about it statewide, it can really hurt a lot of smaller schools,” football coach and teacher Jon Ely said. “Not just with athletics and people leaving, but people going onto bigger opportunities.”

In many cases, that choice comes down to whether a family has time and money for a commute.”

— Kelly Jones, board president

Although transferring for athletics has become a trend across the state recently, Lawrence High athletic director Mike Gillman said there are no exceptions to KSHSAA regulations on transfers with or without the new policy. 

“The rumors that go around that kids can come in and immediately go to a different place to win a state championship are incorrect,” Gillman said. “Policy that says non-residential students will still follow the Kansas State High School Activity Association transfer policy. So no matter what, if they come in from a district, and they come in here, they would still have to sit out an entire year of varsity competition and can only play sub-varsity.”

On the non-athletic side, students may still transfer into USD 497 — if there is an open seat and can afford transportation costs to and from a farther district. 

USD 497 is not the first district to implement a policy like this. Board president Kelly Jones says that although it is new, there isn’t much telling of how many students will transfer to USD 497 with the policy change.

“It’s hard to predict. I’ve read nine out of 10 Kansas districts already report accepting nonresidential students in their schools,” school board president Kelly Jones said. “So, practically speaking, it may have only a minor impact on overall out-of-district transfer numbers.

The rule says that USD 497 will take students based on the number of open seats available, making enrollment still somewhat limited and not just free-reign. Both the superintendent and the school board are part of the process in accepting these students.

A student works next to an open seat. (Maya Smith)

“We would only accept them if we have the room available,” Gillman said. “Because there’s only so many open seats. We can deny those requests, or we can approve them. But on the denying side, we could decide based on state legislature, suspensions, behavior, attendance. We can deny it on those grounds. We cannot deny it based on their athletic abilities.”

Ely predicts that the schools with better programs will see those groups slowly migrate to those schools.

“With us being only two schools in the district, I honestly don’t anticipate our town’s total enrollment changing,” Ely said. “But the school in the state with the better football program, players will eventually go there. The extracurriculars I think are more important to people who will start to swing one way or the other.”

Although the policy is foreign to many families in the district, Jones wants to reiterate that the policy is an opportunity for more students and families to benefit from what USD 497 has to offer. 

“For the majority of families, it’s an illusion of more parental control, and that irritates me,” Jones said. “I imagine many parents and guardians will come up frustrated. Others who can wrangle the logistical caregiving, and join an excellent district like USD 497, they may feel like they won a prize. If I lived outside of LPS boundaries, and got a pass in–I’d be over the moon.”

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About the Contributors
Maya Smith
Maya Smith, Red and Black Co-Editor in Chief

I am a second year editor-in-chief of the Red and Black Yearbook and have been on staff for three years. I am considered a jack of all trades - I take photos, write, design, and do lots and lots of live reporting. When I’m not working on journalism, I’m a part of IPS, Student Council, Unified Sports, Link Crew, and Hang12.

Emily Hurd
Emily Hurd, Designer
I'm a senior and a third year designer for the journalism staff. When I'm not designing, I like to spend my time drawing and painting, listening to music, attending concerts, and reading books. I'm excited to spend another year creating some engaging designs for our publications!

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