Walled Lake Schools touts Schools of Choice

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 8, 2021

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WALLED LAKE — Since 1996, parents in Michigan have had more flexibility as to where their children attend school.

That is when the state’s Schools of Choice program began, and it allows for parents to move their children from one school to another within a given district, as well as to a district in which they don’t reside.

Each district decides whether or not it will accept Schools of Choice students.

A local one that did opt to allow for the program is the Walled Lake Consolidated School District.

According to Judy Evola, the director of community relations and marketing for the WLCSD, Schools of Choice began in the district 19 years ago.

She said it has been “limited,” and “where we’ve had availability.”

The WLCSD accepts around 200 Schools of Choice students annually.

According to Evola, “Currently, we have some 550 SOC students.”

That number was provided shortly before the recent Feb. 5 application period deadline for the 2021-2022 school year.

According to a release, the WLCSD participates in Schools of Choice on a limited basis, meaning not all buildings and grade levels will have openings.

In its most recent application period, the district was accepting applications for kindergarten through grade 10.

The WLCSD does not participate in Schools of Choice 105 C, meaning applications are not accepted from residents who live outside the Oakland County Intermediate School District boundaries.

“After managing Schools of Choice for the past 19 years, the limited Schools of Choice model has served our district well,” WLCSD Student Services Manager Barb Leaf stated via email. “It offers all the services that Walled Lake Schools has to offer other students and families, while at the same time never compromising the support of our in-district families.”

With a cap in place, Evola said, no school building has more than 5% Schools of Choice students in it.

“It’s a good option,” Evola said of the program. “It’s beneficial for families and for the community to have options, to have choices.”

Aside from giving parents and students options, Schools of Choice can also be beneficial for districts.

“We budget for a certain number of Schools of Choice students,” Evola said. “It helps the district have a diverse school community, as well as it does assist with the financial well-being of the school district.”

According to Evola, the WLCSD covers 55 square miles and is in all or part of nine municipalities — Walled Lake, West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake, Farmington Hills, Commerce Township, Wixom, Novi, White Lake and Wolverine Lake Village.

The WLCSD has utilized advertising to try to attract new students to the district, and from Evola’s perspective, there are some strong selling points, including performing arts, athletics and the curriculum, as well as the community and staff.

“I’ve been here 18 years, and we have never had a school bond or initiative that didn’t pass by a very large margin. ... We have a supportive community that understands that schools are the heart of the community,” she said.

With three high schools, four middle schools and 12 elementary schools, like other districts, sometimes the WLCSD loses students.

Evola discussed how that is handled.

“We work with the families that leave for a whole variety of purposes,” she said. “Most of the families leave for the purposes of employment. … Anyone who leaves, we do try to get feedback from them, and we do try to ensure that they know that we would welcome them back.”

For more information, visit wlcsd.org/soc.