AGS makes huge gains on count day
SSC up 11, AE down 22
ARENAC COUNTY — Michigan’s fall student count day was Oct. 2 and the preliminary numbers show Au Gres-Sims making significant gains in student populations, while Standish-Sterling added 11 students and Arenac Eastern lost fewer students than it budgeted for.
AGS Superintendent Jeff Collier said the district’s Oct. 2 count day number was 449, an increase of 66 students from last fall, and an increase of 61 students from the spring count day. Those numbers include the district’s Great Start Readiness Program, he added.
“That represents, including the GSRP, a 14-percent increase in our overall population, which is fantastic,” he said.
According to Collier, the K-12 count was up 43 students from last year. He credited the increases to school-of-choice transfers, including families who lived in the AGS district but previously had their child attend school somewhere else.
“Most of our demographic is school-of-choice families or families who are coming back to their local school district,” he said.
“We’re situated between two county seats, so there’s a lot of employment in Standish or Tawas,” Collier added. “So a lot of our professional families, out of desire to stay closer to their children when they were working, made the choice to have their child attend one of those schools.”
The district’s focus on student achievement, which has garnered results, and its relationship with community members has drawn many of those families back to AGS, Collier said.
He said academically, AGS has shone. The Michigan Department of Education’s Top-to-Bottom ranking — which rank schools on their student performance in mathematics, reading, writing, science, social studies and graduation rates — was an 88 for Au Gres-Sims Elementary. Collier said that was the highest in the Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District.
“We had a Top-to-Bottom ranking of 88,” he said. The second closest school was a Bay County public school, and they were at 78.”
Collier said the high MDE ranking is the result of hard work by many people
“The instructional staff here is fantastic,” he said. “The student body is fantastic. I think there’s been a strong focus on curriculum building. There’s been a very strong focus on community building and creating a great educational setting in a small-school setting.”
Budget-wise, Collier said AGS budgeted for 388 students based on the spring count number. With the state per-pupil allowance at $7,026, AGS’ state funding will be up more than $450,000 when compared with last fall’s numbers. However, if and how that money is spent will be up to the school board, Collier said.
“The check’s in the mail, so to speak, when the count day process is solidified,” he said. “As far as us working within our budget, we’re still working with the budget we passed last year.”
SSC makes modest gain, AE loses students
The Standish-Sterling and Arenac Eastern school districts had mixed results with their respective student counts, according to Darren Kroczaleski, the superintendent for both districts.
Kroczaleski said Standish-Sterling Community Schools added 11 students this year, giving the district a preliminary student population of 1,654.
“We’ll wait until our audited numbers come back, but it’s going to have a significant impact on the budget,” Kroczaleski said. “We had budgeted for a loss of 20 students. When you take 20 students times $7,000 it’s roughly $140,000. Instead of losing that, we’re going to be up.”
The per-pupil allowance will be up roughly $77,200 from last year, creating around a $210,000 swing in the district’s fiscal year budget.
It appears the increase of students is due to transfers moving to the district or choosing it via school of choice, Kroczaleski said, since the kindergarten class is down 12 students from last year.
“That means we picked up students between the first grade and 12th grade,” he said.
Arenac Eastern was the lone district in the county to see a drop in count day numbers. Kroczaleski said the Oct. 2 count came in at 207 — down 22 from last fall. However, the loss does not have major budget implications, as AE budgeted for a loss of 30 students, Kroczaleski said.
He added that he knows people have been speaking in recent years about the district potentially shutting its doors, but financially, the district is in solid shape.
“I don’t want to say that there’s no talk about it,” he said. “With 207 students currently in the school, obviously we have 207 students that want to go to school there. As long as the student enrollment supports the operation of the district — as it does right now — financially we’re OK. And this is even going to help our bottom line, because the budgeted numbers were for 30-student loss and we only lost 22.”
Kroczaleski said that all districts in the county could see numbers fluctuate over the next month or so.
“As it stands, these are very preliminary,” he said. “It takes 30 days. These numbers can fluctuate for the next 30 days, and then after that they’re audited.”
Collier added that there is also a period where students who may have been sick or absent on count day can still be added to the enrollment number.
“These are all projected numbers because there’s a two-week window where we can count students who were sick or out of school,” he said.