It’s gotten easier in recent years, thanks to online communications, for students at small, rural high schools like Lake Mills and Lakeside to take classes they would not normally have access to.

But what if a brick and mortar high school in a neighboring district offers one course they’d like to take? Maybe advanced math or science… or orchestra or ag or foreign language?

What if, at a small school that has just one or two teachers per subject, a student and a teacher aren’t meshing? What if the best choice is something short of wholly removing a student from the district via full-time open enrollment?

It’s been awhile since that was possible.

Before 2013, Wisconsin high school students could enroll part-time in a neighboring public district, to take as little as one course while otherwise attending their community’s high school. But that option was eliminated in the 2013-15 state biennial budget.

Now, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is testing the idea again.

Under an emergency rule that went into effect July 1 and is proposed to become permanent, students can now take up to two courses at a time in another public school district while taking the majority of their classes in their home district. Students have to apply six weeks before the start of a term and both the home and enrolling school district have to approve.

The option is not open to private school students. It does, however, allow students to take most of their classes at their community high school while simultaneously taking up to two courses at Wisconsin Virtual Academy, a state-recognized online school. The DPI held a public hearing Aug. 9 on the proposed permanent rule.

Written comments may still be made through Aug. 20. Questions or additional testimony may be sent to Carl Bryan, administrative rules coordinator, 125 South Webster Street, P.O. Box 7841, Madison, WI 53707-7841.

We can see good reasons for school districts across the state – urban, suburban and rural – to embrace this kind of enrollment flexibility. But in rural communities especially, where course and teacher options are limited yet the thought of completely walking away from a high school a student’s family may have attended for generations is unappealing, this is a welcome option.

It’s the kind of common sense rule change that we wholeheartedly support.

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