September 14, 2014

Local school districts see drop in student numbers

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com

Posted

ARENAC COUNTY — Each of Arenac County’s three school districts saw enrollment numbers decline in the Oct. 3 student count, reducing the amount of state funding each receives.

Arenac Eastern’s number of students fell by 15 to a total of 234. The October 2011 saw the school with 265 students, while the follow-up count in February had a number of 249.

AE Principal Mike Bowman said the district had budgeted for a loss of nine students, so the school board and finance committee would have to determine where to cut the year’s budget to account for the additional six students lost. He believed families finding work elsewhere was the major reason behind the drop in enrollment.

“It could be any number of things,” Bowman said. “I’d like to think it fell from people moving from the area just for jobs.”

Au Gres-Sims saw a smaller drop in its student count from last fall. Superintendent Jeff Collier said the student count was 383 students this year, a drop of five from last fall’s count of 388.

“It’s in line with what we were expecting,” Collier said. “We have a stabilizing population. I’d hope to see it continue to grow but it’s in line with what’s happening around the state with demographic shifts.”

Collier said Michigan has seen more residents moving out of the state for work and taking their families with them, and that population shift naturally means fewer students going to Michigan schools.

Collier said the drop in enrollment will affect the school’s per-pupil allowance from the state, but the district had budgeted accordingly.

Standish-Sterling saw a drop of 59 students, Superintendent Darren Kroczaleski said, to an estimated total of 1,649.

“That’s more than we would have liked to see, but we budgeted for a drop of 80,” Kroczaleski said.

Kroczaleski said he had not checked the immediate school district numbers, but said a lot of schools around the state had seen losses of about 40-60 students. He believed the drop was due to a declining birthrate and the economy leading to families moving out of the state.

Each school receives approximately $7,160 per pupil, and it is a major source of funding for schools across the state. Two counts are made each school year: one in October, and one in February. The October count accounts for 90 percent of the state funding, while the February count supplies the remaining 10 percent.

Additionally, this year the state changed how schools receive that funding, Kroczaleski said, by having the money “follow” a student that leaves to another district. A district would only get a proportional amount of that funding based on how long the student went to that district, he said.

Kroczaleski added schools have a 30-day window to account for students who may have been absent on the official count day or otherwise come into or leave the district, so the final counts will not be known until November or December.

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