The Carroll County Public Schools' switch from traditional districting to an open enrollment system has raised concerns that the door will be open to underground recruiting of high school athletes.
According to the new system, a student can choose to attend any school operating at less than 75 percent capacity as long as the student's family provides its own transportation. Currently the only two high schools in Carroll County that have less than 75 percent capacity are North Carroll and Manchester Valley.
For schools operating between 75-97 percent capacity — every high school aside from North Carroll and Manchester Valley — students wishing to transfer in are required to file an out-of-district request that must meet a set of criteria created by the Carroll County Board of Education.
The rule has been in effect for one academic year, and Carroll County Director of Student Services Dana Falls said it has not resulted in much of a net gain anywhere. But South Carroll High School field hockey coach Brigid McTavish said a policy like this will take time before a notable effect is seen.
“Since it just started I think it would be very hard to get some students to transfer right now, but in the future I think incoming freshmen might be highly recruited for different schools,” she said. “As a sophomore, junior, or senior, you're not going to want to transfer schools, but coaches would definitely be able to get incoming freshmen to try to establish teams.”
Falls saw the possibility of recruiting as an early concern with the new system, and said he has closely monitored the out-of-district requests and athletic participation and has yet to see a correlation. He also stressed that any sign of recruiting would be highly scrutinized and that the punishments would be swift and steep.
“If we saw somebody that is less than professional as a coach who would try and manipulate the system…it has been communicated to athletic directors that it would result in disciplinary action,” he said. “I have heard from some folks that coaches have tried to use ROTC to try and recruit for athletics, but there is no data to substantiate that claim.”
For the 2012-2013 academic year, 588 out-of-district requests were approved out of 602 applications. Of those, 151 were at the high school level, Falls said. South Carroll saw just 18 total requests, with nine students transferring in and nine others leaving.
But, McTavish said, “Right now I do not think much transferring will be going on because students have established themselves at their schools and want to stay where they are comfortable. In the future I see this as changing.”
Frederick County schools Oakdale, Catoctin and Brunswick all compete in the Antietam Conference with South Carroll, and the new policy has drawn some questions.
“I think there's always been some skepticism out there especially with the different programs some schools have,” said Oakdale track and field coach Chris Lewis. “With [open enrollment] it's actually bigger. It's more open. On the one hand, you say, 'Would a kid go to those lengths just to go to a school?' But on the other hand you never know.”