2017-10-11 / Front Page

Sandusky, Cros-Lex gain students

Marlette, CPS biggest declines
810-452-2684 • skovac@mihomepaper.com

Paul Flynn Paul Flynn There were some winners and some losers in this year’s student count among Sanilac County’s seven school districts.

The big winner was Sandusky Schools which reported a gain of 33 students over last year on Oct. 4, the official fall count day for Michigan’s K-12 districts.

“Sandusky’s fall student count came in at 1,057 students this year,” said Superintendent Paul Flynn. “This is an increase of 33 from last year’s blended count of 1,024. It’s exciting to see all the good things going on in Sandusky Schools. The staff is focused on continuous improvement. I believe the community is seeing growth as well.”

The big loser was Marlette, which was down by 56 from last year’s fall count.

Marlette Superintendent Sarah Barratt commented in an email to the News, “Marlette Community Schools has experienced an unusually large reduction in its student population this school year.

“Last Fall, the District had 887 students enrolled. We planned for a loss of 33 students due to a large Senior class of 85 graduating and we anticipated an enrollment of 50 Kindergartners. The initial District budget for the 2017-18 school year was built for 855 students, however the actual enrollment as of count day this Fall was 831.

Barratt said, “As most districts do, MCS tracks the requests of records of students. The data shows that the discrepancy between projected enrollment from actual enrollment is attributed to students physically moving out of the District and enrolling in the district of their new residence. The majority of students enrolled in the District stay in the District unless they move.

“We are already making the necessary budget reductions and will be presenting some recommendations to the Board of Education. We strive to maintain a balanced budget and yet provide a quality education.”

Ascertaining the number of students in a district is important because it is an integral component in calculating the amount of state aid that district will receive.

However, when it comes to the Michigan School Aid Formula, nothing is ever simple and seldom are things certain. But one thing is clear. According to the Michigan Department of Education, school districts across the state are receiving $11 billion dollars in state aid for the current 2017-18 school year.

How that money is divided among Michigan’s nearly 900 public school districts is calculated by multiplying this year’s legislatively determined $7,631 per student contribution by the number of students in that district.

On certain specified days in the fall and spring a state mandated physical headcount of the students is performed by district officials. But that’s not all there is to it. For example, when asked how the Brown City district came up with a count of 826.86 students, Superintendent Neil Kohler explained, “If you are just counting ‘heads/ bodies,’ we are at 831 students, but this is not the number our funding is based on. Our count for Full-Time Equivalent funding purposes is a fraction because we have many students for whom we receive partial credit due to special education, home school, etc.”

Kohler went on to say, “We are currently down 19 students from Fall 2016. We are down 8.5 students from Spring 2017. We anticipated being down some students just from the disparity in class sizes between last year’s graduating seniors (70) and this year’s entering kindergarteners (59). We budgeted for 815 students.”

By employing conservative budgetary projections, school administrators moderate the negative financial impact of declines in enrollment.

Enrollment levels are subject to so many variables they make the job of predicting them far from an exact science. For example, school board members, administrators, and some of the public at Croswell- Lexington Schools worried whether last year’s upheaval over the resignation of three principles, the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and most of the school board, along with the controversial decision of ending the popular year-round school program, would adversely affect enrollment.

Not only did the decline not materialize, but Superintendent Dan Gilbertson was able to report an increase. “On Wednesday, October 4, our total count was 2,159, up 13 students from the February 2017 count date.”

Peck Schools fall count last year was 356, according to Superintendent Frank Johnson. “This year we counted 166 students in K-6 and 184 students for grades 7-12, for a total of 350 students. We are down 6, but we budgeted for a loss of 20,” said Johnson.

Johnson went on to say, “We would like Peck residents to know that we are focused on good education and improvement. Our technology and facilities will be on par or better than all area districts thanks to the community support of the bond issue last spring. We believe that all resident students should proudly attend Peck schools.”

Superintendent James Stewart tried to put the best face on a difficult situation for his district by prefacing the release of his current information with the reminder that, in February of 2017, the student count at Carsonville-Port Sanilac Schools was 426, which was up dramatically from the 392 students counted in February 2016.

This fall, however, the news wasn’t so good for CPS. “We expect the latest count to be about 380 students,” said Stewart.

Stewart went on to explain that some of the loss of the 46 students “was expected as we had a large graduating class at both CPS High School and our Alternative Education Learning Center. We also had several families move out of the area or even out of state, which was unexpected, but we did have contingency plans in place for that possibility.”

The report from Deckerville Schools showed a loss of 18 students, said Superintendent Hugan. “Our fall count for 2017- 18 is 586 students. This is down 18 from last year’s fall count of 604. The district based this year’s budget on a count of 604, so adjustments will have to be made, however a slight increase from the state in per pupil allowance this year may offset some revenue loss.”

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