Public School Open Enrollment and the "Senior Rule"


Section 121.84 (1) (b), Wis. Stats., reads as follows:

  • 121.84 (1) (b) Upon request of a pupil's parent or guardian, a school board of a district operating high school grades shall permit a pupil who has gained 12th grade status in a high school under its jurisdiction and is a resident of the school district at the time of gaining such status to complete 12th grade at the high school without payment of tuition, even though the pupil is no longer a resident of the school district.

This section is often referred to as the "senior rule." It allows certain students to attend their senior year in the district in which they completed their junior year, even if they move out of the district.

There are two parts to the senior rule:

  • The student must have attained senior status.
  • The student must have been a resident of the school district at the time of attaining senior status.

Question: When does a student attain senior status?
Answer: Senior status is decided by each school district. In some school districts, a student attains senior status upon completion of the junior year. In others, a student attains senior status when the student has earned a specified number of credits. If a school district does not have a policy or established practice for defining senior status, the assumption is that senior status is attained upon completion of the junior year.

Question: If a student moves out of a school district during her junior year, does the student have to apply for open enrollment to attend that district during the student’s senior year?
Answer: It depends on when the student moves and when the student attains senior status. If the student moves out of the district before attaining senior status, the student must apply for open enrollment in order to attend the district in her senior year.

Question: If a junior is planning to move out of a school district during the summer and wants to attend that district for his senior year, does he need to apply for open enrollment?
Answer: No, he doesn’t. However, some parents may want to apply anyway, in case they move earlier than they intended to or in case the student doesn’t attain senior status (that is, doesn’t pass the junior year or doesn’t earn enough credits.) Such parents should not be discouraged from applying for open enrollment. It is simpler to process an unneeded application than it is to fix the problem if one or both of the parents’ concerns materializes.

Question: If a student applies for open enrollment and it later turns out that the student is eligible under the senior rule, does open enrollment or the senior rule take precedence? How is the student counted for state aid and revenue limits?
Answer: If the student is eligible both under open enrollment and the senior rule, the senior rule takes precedence. The school district of attendance counts the student for both state aid and revenue limit purposes just as if the student were still a resident.

Question: If a student attended a school district under open enrollment for the junior year, does open enrollment cease when she becomes a senior, thus making the senior rule apply for the senior year?
Answer: No, because the student will not have met both tests for the senior rule. While the student has probably attained senior status, she did not do so as a resident of the school district. If she was attending the district under open enrollment she was, by definition, a nonresident.

Mary Jo Cleaver, School Administration Consultant
Public School Open Enrollment
September 30, 1999

For questions about this information, contact Jennifer Danfield (608) 264-6707