Area school enrollment continues decades-long slide

SHIAWASSEE AREA — Area public school districts are reporting mixed results following the first of two student Count Days in the state, according to preliminary numbers released this week.

In the area, Byron, Chesaning, Corunna, Ovid-Elsie, Owosso and Perry school districts reported enrollment loses after the unofficial count, which took place Wednesday.

Durand, Laingsburg, Morrice and New Lothrop reported enrollment increases from a year ago.

Count Day is important for school districts because each student who shows up to school translates into state funding mandated through the State School Aid Act.

According to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), the Legislature bases 90 percent of school funding on the fall count. The remaining 10 percent of school funding is determined by a second Count Day in the spring, scheduled for Feb. 12, 2020.

Laingsburg Community Schools reported the largest growth in enrollment among area schools after the preliminary numbers, an increase of 41 students from last fall — from 1,121 to 1,162.

Superintendent Matt Shastal said an enrollment projection conducted by an outside firm last fall as part of a district bond application indicated a potential increase in students, based upon projected birth rates in Shiawassee and Clinton counties, as well as the steady increase of School of Choice students.

“We monitored our district enrollment throughout the summer and hired additional staff to accommodate this anticipated increase in students,” Shastal said via email. “It is always welcomed news as a district when you can either maintain your enrollment or see an increase, so we are pleased that parents and students continue to see the value in attending Laingsburg Community Schools.”

After losing 57 students between the fall 2017 and fall 2018 Count Days, Durand Area Schools reported an increase of 22 students Wednesday, from 1,308 to 1,330.

Superintendent Craig McCrumb said he’s pleased to see the uptick.

“We had 1,290 students in the spring, but we graduated 120 kids. Our incoming kindergarten class was only 87, so right off the bat, that was 33 kids we knew we were going to lose, yet our number is higher,” McCrumb said. “We’re encouraged. With the increased student count and our strong elementary test scores, we’ve really got momentum as a district right now. People are moving in. I give a lot of credit to our teachers and the attention they provide, how well they teach our students. We’ve become very attentive to family and student needs, the word is out there. People are coming to the area.”

Morrice Area Schools reported an increase of 16 students from fall 2018 to 527. New Lothrop Area Public Schools added seven students from last fall, from 915 to 922.

Corunna Public Schools reported the largest enrollment decrease in the area, as the district was down 64 students from last fall, cutting total enrollment to 1,739.

Superintendent John Fattal said he’s actually pleased with the numbers, since the district had budgeted for 1,694 students — a loss of 109 students — this year.

“Our senior classes are larger than our kindergarten classes, and it’s been that way for about 10 years or so,” Fattal said. “We think it’s going to take another four years for things to balance out, so to be up 45 students from our projection is a really, really good sign.”

Chesaning Union Schools was down four students from last fall (1,434 to 1,430).

Byron Area Schools was down 21 students, bringing overall enrollment to 814, though Superintendent Tricia Murphy-Alderman indicated via email the student count was greater than what the district had budgeted.

Perry Public Schools saw a decrease of 17 students, from 1,087 to 1,070.

Superintendent Lori Haven said she was encouraged by the numbers.

“We’re showing a loss of 17 students, but we actually budgeted for more than that,” Haven said. “We’ve been experiencing declining enrollment for a number of years and we’ve been waiting for it to stabilize; this is a really good sign that we’re close.”

Ovid-Elsie Area Schools saw a decrease of 38 students from last fall’s 1,528.

Superintendent Ryan Cunningham said the student count was on par with what the district budgeted.

“We knew that we are losing some students, but our trend is starting to plateau,” Cunningham said. “We are hopeful that with all the new industry going into St. Johns our enrollment will stabilize or increase over the next few years.”

Owosso Public Schools reported a loss of 36 students from fall 2018, bringing total enrollment to 3,078.

Superintendent Andrea Tuttle also said the numbers were better than expected.

“We budgeted to be down 75 students,” Tuttle said via email. “The majority of the students that have left our school system this year have exited out of the county or out of the state. We did enroll many more schools of choice students from within the county due to our superior academic and extracurricular offerings and opportunities, but it did not compensate for the number of students who moved.”

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