Indiana’s Department of Education released enrollment numbers last week showing competition for students between districts is heating up.
Fort Wayne Community Schools spokeswoman Krista Stockman said some of what the data showed was expected.
"We were not surprised that they are going to East Allen," Stockman said. "We trade students all the time because our boundaries are close."
But they were surprised by the number of students who crossed the southern Allen County line to go to a nearby rural school district.
"We do know in the last year or two, Northern Wells has made a concerted effort to recruit students out of Fort Wayne Community Schools," Stockman said.
For the smaller southern district, recruiting students is necessary.
Northern Wells Community Schools Superintendent Scott Mills said he is not sure all the competition between the state’s school districts is a good thing.
And in the few years since students have been allowed to transfer to districts outside of their own, Mills sees tension growing between neighboring districts.
"We have actively started to market to areas where we experienced an influx of students. We are getting a significant number that come from the northern part of our boundary up into Waynedale," Mills said.
Waynedale is part of Fort Wayne Community Schools.
Using newspaper ads and direct mailing, Northern Wells pulled in 74 more net students than they lost in 2017, according to numbers released last week by the Indiana Department of Education.
Prior to the transfer option, Northern Wells was struggling to maintain student population and looking at having to make drastic changes. The transfers in offer some stability.
"If we didn't have transfer students coming to our schools, we'd be cutting staff and programs," Mills said. "To maintain programs, we want to keep our student numbers as high as we can."
The eroding cooperation between districts is a detriment, but Mills feels the legislature has given them no choice if they want to keep their enrollment.
"I know it's not the best, but we've been forced a hand and we have to play it," Mills said.