‘Every student benefits:’ Martin County schools hope to draw more students from outside district

District to expand controlled open enrollment process to all schools

WPTV | By Stephanie Susskind| February 29, 2024

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — The Martin County School Board on Thursday approved a plan to open all of its schools to what’s called the controlled open enrollment process.

We know that where your child goes to school can really shape their future, and this process allows students to attend a school or district outside of where they live if there is space available.

There are close to 17,000 students enrolled in the Martin County School District, and last year, about 200 took advantage of the controlled open enrollment process. Now the district is trying to get more people involved to fill open seats.

Jeannine Ramos loves sharing her passion for nursing with her students at South Fork High School.

“Our students don’t miss our classes. They love it,” said Ramos, a teacher in the school’s medical academy.

As part of the medical academy, students are learning everything from patient care to performing procedures, sometimes on mannequins and sometimes on each other.

“We know that there is such a need in the medical care field right now,” Ramos said. “All three of the high schools are able to have their own [certified nursing assistant] program that is needed. And then on top of that, each high school has an additional program that we expanded to.”

They hope these types of programs can help pull more students to Martin County schools that may live outside district lines.

“The money follows the child,” said Derek Lowe, the coordinator of public information and community relations for the Martin County School District.

Lowe said that while there is plenty of new construction coming to Martin County, it’s not necessarily bringing families with school-aged children. That’s why the district is utilizing the controlled open enrollment process to expand their reach with most schools not at full capacity.

“As time goes on, we’re starting to see a little bit of decreased enrollment,” Lowe said. “Nothing too major. But every student is associated with an amount of funding from the state. So it’s very important that we have those kids in our seats, because the numbers that follow the student do make up a large portion of our operational budget.”

Students like Haylee Luning, who participates in multiple specialty programs, support the idea of allowing others from outside the area to do the same.

“I think it’s definitely good if that kid really wants to take on that occupation and take on that career. Let the kid do it,” Luning said.

“I think every student benefits from the opportunity to have this type of exposure,” Ramos said. “So whether you are zoned for South Fork, or you are zoned for another school, or you are zoned out of county and coming in, the fact that we can provide you with something you wouldn’t get elsewhere, I think that’s invaluable.”

The controlled open enrollment application process starts Friday, March 1. For more information and to apply, click here.

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