Ashland School District announced Thursday it will make room for 308 students residing outside its boundaries next year.

Ashland School District announced Thursday it will make room for 308 students residing outside its boundaries next year.

That many new students would mean hiring additional staff and sprucing up vacant classrooms across the district to ensure that the potential increase doesn't carry a negative impact into next year's classroom sizes.

"Our board was very explicit in saying that under no circumstances do we want to have too many kids in our classrooms," said Samuel Bogdanove, Ashland's director of student services. "Our current class sizes are one of the main reasons our schools are so effective "… we're going to keep it that way."

If the district reaches the 308 mark, it will hire about 11 additional teachers and the average classroom size will fall by about one student, said Bogdanove.

As the only school district in the county to embrace the state's open enrollment legislation, Ashland hopes opening its doors to out-of-district students will help rebuild enrollment numbers that have fallen continuously for over a decade, said Superintendant Juli Di Chiro. Di Chiro said she believes open enrollment is poor state policy, because it has the potential of pitting districts against each other, "but it obviously benefits us."

Before its school board unanimously passed the open enrollment policy in January, Ashland projected enrollment to fall by about 60 students next academic year, meaning the district would receive about $336,000 less from the state.

If Ashland reaches its desired number of transfers through open enrollment, it would receive about $1.7 million next year for those students. Both estimates are based on the state providing about $5,600 per student for the year.

"We're opening the door pretty wide," said Bogdanove. "But, we have enough classroom space."

The district will not know exactly what numbers it will have to work with until after the April 1 application deadline, said Bogdanove.

If the district gets more than 308 applicants, it will use a lottery drawing process to choose who will be admitted, starting at the kindergarten level and working up. If it receives dramatically fewer, it will have to restructure its number of openings.

Bogdanove said if the district doesn't bring in enough kids to hire additional staff at a specific grade level, it will affect how many students it can admit at other grade levels. Admitting a large cohort of students in one grade would throw off class sizes as that group of students moved on.

"We'll add in enough new students to maximize the current staff without crowding classrooms," said Bogdanove.

Parents will have the option of requesting certain schools for their children to be admitted to, but there will be no guarantees, Di Chiro said.

Willow Wind Learning Center, which was initially excluded from open enrollment because it is a special program, is now a choice for applicants.

John Muir, another special program within the district, is not available. But a student who is admitted through the open enrollment process could then submit a request to transfer to John Muir.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.