Why do kids leave the Garretson School District?

Our society has become more transient over the last 30 years.  In the past, it was rare that people would move, and long ago, open enrollment was not an option.  At the public information meeting, one district patron questioned whether district officials know why students choose to leave the district.  Another questioned open enrollment trends of those who open enroll into the district compared to those who leave the district.  The implication behind the question “do you know why kids leave the district,” seems to be that there is an effort to hide information from the public.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We certainly protect the privacy of all of our students, and cannot report information that allows people to identify specific students, however, the general statistics for students leaving the district were reported to the school board in open session at the October 2022 regular meeting.  Any district patron who wishes to see the report can have access to the information in the board packet on the school’s website.  

The second question is the easiest to answer.  The SD Dept of Education keeps statistics for each district with open enrollment in compared to out.  The following chart shows the enrollment data for the Garretson School District since 2000.  Data regarding open enrollment in vs. out was also included, since 2010.  


Total Students

Total Students510526518494475474463477480.43494.34465.34465444.12
Total Open Enroll In50514947485048525958656562
Total Open Enroll Out75708478686673525481847475
Source: SD Department of Education

As we look at that data, there is a positive trend with respect to the number of students who choose to open enroll into the district.  In 2018, the GSD had more students coming in than going out.  While the trend of increasing students coming to the district continued through 2022, the COVID years also saw an increased number of student open enrolling out.  

One can also see that our overall k-12 student population has seen peaks and valleys in the past.  

As far as why our students are leaving, we can talk about the students who left the district from the 21-22 school year to the 22-23 school year.  There were 38 students who left the district.  Twenty two of those students’ families moved out of the district.  Of the remaining students, one student left our school for alternate instruction (home school).  Ten students open enrolled out of the district.  That number is different from the total in the chart above because students only need to open enroll one time and then they are allowed to stay in that receiving district as long as they would like.  Five of those students open enrolled to other larger schools to participate in certain activities.  Five of those students left the district for personal reasons, which may include social issues or conflict with peers, conflict with certain staff members or other personal reasons.  Two students returned to their home district and three students left the district to attend other unique programs based on their specific, individual needs.   

While the district does not have a distinct and formal exit interview process, we do know why our students choose to leave the district.  It’s not a mystery.  They generally tell us.  They leave for a variety of reasons, some of which are easy to understand, and some of which are more complex.  The most common reason that people leave the district is that they move to another community.  Sometimes it is job-related on the part of the parents, sometimes it has to do with other factors.  The majority of students who open enroll out of the district do so for activities.  A much less common reason for leaving are social issues or conflict with peers, and sometimes a student or parent may have an issue with a particular staff member.  There have been times when a student or family wants to keep their reasons for leaving the district private, but more often than not, either the student or the parent tells us why they choose to leave in the case of open enrollment.  

Our goal is to be transparent with our community.  Our books are open.  The entire board packet is placed on our website before each board meeting, including all written reports.  In this case, we could have easily pointed interested patrons to the October 2022 board packet.  That being said, we also need to balance our transparency with the need to keep our students’ private stories just that – private.  Often times, people would like information specific to certain kids, and we simply cannot release it.  Other times, the information is freely available, if you know where to look for it and we would be happy to help anyone find what they’re looking for.