Eau Claire School District is losing students to open enrollment

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis (WEAU)--It's a growing trend among parents to 'shop for schools ' and find the best fit for their child but it comes at a cost to districts.

The latest open enrollment numbers for the Eau Claire School District show a growing number of families choosing to leave the district and enroll in alternative learning programs.
There are currently around 400 Eau Claire students attending school in another district or charter school, online or being homeschooled.

That's nearly a 200% increase from just five school years ago when only 147 students had opted out of the district. The loss of students to other schools and programs is costing the district around a $1 million.

“I think Eau Claire is kind of behind the curve," said Paul Berthiaume.

Paul Berthiaume has two kids enrolled in Eau Claire schools; one kid at Fall Creek High School, and two kids attending Wildlands Charter School out of Augusta.

“My two teenage boys love to go to school,” said Berthiaume.

The Berthiaume’s are part of a growing number of families using Wisconsin’s open enrollment policy to individualize their children's education.

“I want them to develop natural learning and curiosity, a natural curiosity and that’s I think what everyone wants for their kids," said Berthiaume.

“There are a number of reasons but there is an increased interest in virtual schools,” said Assistant Superintendent Tim Leibham.

Leibham says while the District offers some online curriculum, students can't earn a diploma from solely taking online courses.

“The state is general is moving toward more options toward families,” says Leibham.