Policy changed in Liberty

District now objects to any student leaving to open enroll

LIBERTY — After generating controversy with an open enrollment policy that objected to white students leaving Liberty Local Schools for nearby Girard City Schools, the school board Monday changed the policy.

The district now objects to any student in Liberty leaving to open enroll to an adjacent or other school district.

The move came after conversations with the Ohio Department of Education, officials with the local chapter of the NAACP and other groups, and in-house scrutiny of the policy approved April 23 that stated “native Caucasian students would no longer be granted consent to open enroll into Girard schools.”

The new policy states the school board “may object to and reserves the right to no longer consent to the future open enrollment of Liberty’s native students in an adjacent or other districts in order to maintain an appropriate racial balance if the trend toward a racial balance continues and grows.”

When the balance is restored and the trend stops, the district will reconsider the open enrollment policy to nearby districts, the policy states.

Superintendent Joseph Nohra said the district had concerns over declining student enrollment to other districts, mostly to Girard City Schools, which includes the loss of state funds to the other districts.

He said the new resolution “sticks to the law” based on what is in Ohio Revised Code and simplifies the policy with school officials objecting to open enrollment in order to maintain racial balance in the schools.

Officials have said Liberty’s student enrollment is 50 percent white and 50 percent non-white.

School officials said they believe by offering online programs at school, new engineering and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs and expanding course offerings and programs they will be able to keep students in Liberty.

“We can only hope to retain more students and keep a racial balance. We will continue looking at enrollment data and trends. We are beefing up our course offerings and will continue to do that,” Nohra said.

“Officials in Columbus need to put their foot down with open enrollment because so many students leave districts,” he said.

Girard Board of Education President Mark Zuppo previously said Girard accepts students from any district and Liberty students were mostly enrolling in grades kindergarten to fourth in Girard.

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