GREENFIELD — Parents can send their child to any school they choose, and in Hancock County, most opt to have them attend locally.
In nearly every Hancock County public school district, 90 percent or more of the students who reside in the district choose to attend school there, data shows.
Students who don’t attend their local district commonly attend another Hancock County school.
The Indiana Department of Education recently released a report that tracks where Hoosier students attend school, including whether they attend their home district. The data is intended to help districts better understand mobility among schools, the department states.
In Indiana, parents may choose where their child goes to school, and state funding — approximately $5,500 per child — follows the student.
The report details how many students attend charter schools, transfer to a different public school or use the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, which provides vouchers to low-income families to help pay for private education.
Local educators say the data helps shed light on the factors parents weigh when choosing to send their child elsewhere — school size, for example.
Across the county, more than 1,000 students attend school outside of their home district, and county schools welcome more than 1,500 students who don’t live in their corporation boundaries.
Statewide, about 87 percent of students attend school in the district they live, the state department said. But the numbers vary widely from district to district.
Gary Community Schools in northwest Indiana, for example, has about 61 percent of its students transferring out. Zionsville Community Schools loses just 2 percent of its students, the data shows.
Here’s a look at how Hancock County schools fare.
Of all four public school districts in Hancock County, Mt. Vernon sees the highest number of students in Hancock County schools transferring out. Meanwhile, the district also has the highest number of out-of-district students attending its schools, the data shows.
This school year, the district reported a net gain of about 200 students, which brings about $1.1 million more into the corporation’s budget.
The school taking in the most Mt. Vernon students — 69 — is nearby Geist Montessori Academy, the only charter school in Hancock County.
Unless a large number of students transfers to another public school because it offers programs Mt. Vernon lacks, Superintendent Shane Robbins said there’s no reason to be worried.
A supporter of school choice, Robbins said the academy might be a better fit for some families.
“Of course, I’m always going to advocate we’re providing the best education opportunities available,” he said. “I support a parent’s choice if they feel that’s going to be the best atmosphere for their child.”
The state’s new transfer report is a good indicator of how well a district is doing, said Southern Hancock Communications director Wes Anderson.
This year, Southern Hancock’s net gain was 351 students.
The district taking in the most Southern Hancock students — 31 — is Greenfield-Central.
State law requires districts to accept transfer students until a school reaches capacity, and seeing hundreds of students transfer in tells district leaders they’re doing something right, Anderson said.
Last school year, Sugar Creek Elementary had to stop accepting transfer students because it had reached the building’s capacity. Parents who wanted their students to attend school there were given the option to go to one of the other elementary schools, he said.
This year, no schools in the district have had to turn students away.
Now, the district is reopening a school it closed several years ago to make more room for its growing population.
Anderson said families want to move to New Palestine, and district leaders believe it’s because of the programs they offer.
Southern Hancock was the first county school corporation to give every student a take-home computer, which is enticing to some families.
The high school has a strong early college program that offers college credits, and class sizes are generally small — about 25, Anderson said.
Competing for students
Of all four county schools corporations, Greenfield-Central is the only district that reported a net loss.
They reported a net loss of 265 students; 106 students left the district for Eastern Hancock.
The district lost about $1.4 million of school funding it would receive if every student who lives in the district attended school there.
While that seems like a lot of money, the district isn’t alarmed, said Superintendent Harold Olin.
Leaders haven’t had to make cuts to staffing or programming.
Rather, they’re encouraged because the number of students transferring in increased by about 30 this school year compared with last, Olin said.
It’s hard for the district to compete with other county school corporations because of its central location.
Families from other counties, like Marion, would have to drive through the other county districts to get to Greenfield-Central.
“You’re not going to drive through another good school corporation just to come here,” he said.
Still, the district is working to attract more families by increasing marketing efforts.
Earlier this year, the school board hired the school foundation’s executive director, Ginny Brown, to do some part-time marketing work leaders hope encourages families to send their students there.
“We’re in a different world now,” Olin said. “We’re competing for students.”
Small school atmosphere
About 94 percent of students who live in Eastern Hancock’s boundaries attend school there.
This year, they reported a net gain of 198 students.
More than 100 students who live in Greenfield-Central’s boundaries attend school at Eastern Hancock.
For those families, it’s not a far drive, and if they’re looking for a smaller atmosphere for their students, Eastern offers that, Olin said.
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Here’s a look at the most popular school choices among students that leave their home district:
31 to Greenfield-Central
15 to Mt. Vernon
9 to Eastern Hancock
106 to Eastern Hancock
51 to Mt. Vernon
83 to Southern Hancock
47 to Saint Michael Catholic School
39 to Southern Hancock
59 to Greenfield-Central
6 to Eastern Hancock
40 Lawrence Township
69 Geist Montessori Academy
6 to Southern Hancock
18 to Greenfield-Central
5 to Mt. Vernon
6 to South Madison