Ashland will open its schools to students outside the district, the School Board decided Monday.

Ashland will open its schools to students outside the district, the School Board decided Monday.

The board unanimously approved the first draft of a plan that allows outside students to transfer into Ashland schools without their home district's permission under the state's new open enrollment law.

Medford School Board members on Monday rejected the idea, however, saying they believed the legislation approved in the 2011 session was "rushed" and did not provide benefits for students.

Districts throughout the state have until March 1 to decide whether to allow transfers for the 2012-13 year, a deadline the district has been determined to meet, said Samuel Bogdanove, Ashland director of student services.

The new legislation grants students the right to transfer to any school, inside or outside their home district, without permission from the home district provided there's room and the target district has agreed to allow incoming transfers.

Ashland School District has faced declining enrollment numbers for the last 14 years, said Superintendent Juli Di Chiro.

"We just see this as a way to compensate for the declining enrollment," she said. "It could be something that helps stop those numbers from dwindling €… and, really, even make a positive impact on our class sizes."

The school board will review a second draft of the district's plan to allow open enrollment during its Feb. 13 meeting, when the plan is expected to be finalized, said Di Chiro.

— Sam Wheeler