Choosing open enrollment
A year ago, Dani and Tony Austreng had a decision to make.
The twins were sophomores at Weyauwega-Fremont High School and knew they would be moving into the Waupaca School District with their parents, Tom and Robin.
The question they faced was whether they would want to go to school in their new home district of Waupaca or whether they wanted to open enroll into the W-F School District, where they had been since kindergarten.
“I kept going back and forth,” Dani said. “Partly, I wanted a new start.”
Both she and her brother were unsure where they wanted to finish their high school years, and so, their parents applied for open enrollment into the W-F District.
Since 1998, Wisconsin’s open enrollment program has allowed families to open enroll their children into a school district other than the one in which they live.
The open enrollment period for the 2012-13 school year began on Feb. 6 and runs through the end of April. Legislation signed Feb. 1 by Governor Scott Walker expanded the open enrollment application period from three weeks to three months.
If a nonresident district accepts an application, the parents of that student must notify that district by June 29 whether their child will indeed attend school there next fall.
Dani made her decision last May. Tony made his in the summer.
He chose Waupaca, while she chose Weyauwega-Fremont.
“The rule had been they would go to the same school,” Tom said. “She had convinced me she was OK going to Waupaca.”
But, Robin knew Dani wanted to stay in the W-F district, because of friends, academics and athletics.
The Austrengs moved into the W-F School District in 1988.
Initially, they lived in the town of Royalton. Eight years ago, they moved into Weyauwega.
Older daughters Amanda and Nicole were also in school at the time, so with four children in school and the busy schedules that followed them, Tom and Robin wanted to be closer to their schools.
Their plan was to move back into the country after Amanda and Nicole graduated, as the family enjoys the outdoors.
When they found property in the town of Lind, they knew it was in the Waupaca School District.
“Our original plan,” Tom said, “was to move here before their freshman year.”
Dani and Tony both said they would go to WHS.
However, the economy soon was not what it had been, and they decided to wait on building their new home.
When work began on their house in October 2010, Tony and Dani were sophomores.
Tom and Robin told them they could make their own decisions.
“We sat down together,” Tom said, “and I said, ‘We’re not moving because of sports.’ So, they had to tell me why they wanted to move (open enroll). We made it clear.”
During the open enrollment process, they did check on the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s eligibility rules since both children play sports. The eligibility rules did not affect either of them.
Tony played football last fall, while Dani played volleyball. She currently plays basketball and will be on the track team this spring.
While Dani was interested in a change, she thought that for her, switching to Waupaca would be disruptive.
She knew her W-F teachers well, looked forward to playing volleyball and basketball with her teammates, and wondered if she would fit in with already-established groups of friends in Waupaca.
Her brother wanted to experience a new school.
“I see a new person every day,” he said.
Tony likes going to WHS and has made new friends.
His mother says he has friends in both school districts but that his closest friends are probably in the W-F district. He continues to go to open gym in Weyauwega.
“I’m enjoying my choice,” he said. “It’s different – the amount of people.”
Dani is in a class of 88, while Tony is in a class of about 170.
She continues to be involved in FFA and is the captain of her basketball team. She’ll be the captain of her track team, too.
With the Austrengs’ home equal distance to both high schools – about a 10-mile drive in both directions – Tony drives to WHS, while Dani often rides to Weyauwega with either her mom or dad.
Robin is an accounting student at Fox Valley Technical College and drops Dani off at school on her way to class in Appleton or Oshkosh.
Tom works at Pierce Manufacturing’s Midwest Regional Service Center in Weyauwega and can pick Dani up after her sports practices.
Robin said they thought having the twins in different high schools would be difficult, but it has not been.
“I guess we’re still gone the same amount of time,” she said.
Dani and Tony always were in different activities.
For the twins, who were born two minutes apart (Dani is the older of the two), the biggest change for them is not seeing each other.
Their lockers were next to each other, and they had many classes together.
These days, when they have time to talk, they compare the differences between their schools. They have many of the same subjects. Dani often notices that she has covered particular material in a subject before Tony does in his class.
While they miss going to school together, both are happy where they are.
Next fall, Dani will be a senior at W-F, and Tony will be a senior at WHS.
They will graduate the same year – but on different high school stages.
“For me, the most difficult,” Dani said, “is I don’t see Tony.”