By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers
Several Downriver school districts showed declines — one of them significant — in the number of students on count day Sept. 30, though some did better than expected.
About 75 percent of the count figures are used to determine districts’ state aid funding, which is distributed on a per-pupil basis. The remaining 25 percent of the formula is based on a count that was done in February.
The Taylor School District by far took the biggest hit, losing about 600 students. Officials there said they had anticipated losing about that number based on a University of Michigan study that predicted a loss of 400, combined with another 200 expected because of house foreclosures.
District officials ran newspaper advertisements touting the advantages of attending school and gained some students while losing others.
Melvindale-Northern Allen Park Schools lost about 59 students compared to February’s number; its enrollment now stands at about 2,758.
“We had actually budgeted for a greater drop in our student enrollment in light of the local economic conditions, so we were quite pleased with the number of enrolled students,” Supt. Cora Kelly said. “The entire school finance situation, however, remains very stressful across the entire Downriver area and the state of Michigan as a whole.”
Lincoln Park Public Schools lost about 73 students after projecting a loss of about 170. Among its 4,597-student count are about 50 schools-of-choice additions. Now in its first year, the program was a limited offering for students in kindergarten through first grade.
Allen Park Public Schools gained about 27 students, with its unaudited count showing 3,760 total. Of that number, 125 come from a schools-of-choice program that is limited to the elementary level. About 60 percent of those children are from Melvindale, Lincoln Park and Taylor.
Supt. John Sturock said that despite the increase, the district still is losing students to both foreclosures and families moving out of state to find jobs, as evidenced by the number of school record requests that have been coming from out of state. It also is seeing an increase in secondary enrollment, and officials would rather see an increase in the elementary grades because that would signify district growth.
Trenton Public Schools went from last fall’s count of 2,874 to 2,875 this fall, a gain of one student overall.
Supt. John Savel said the number is somewhat deceptive when looked at by levels. Elementary students in the district were down to 1,208 this year from 1,216. At Trenton High School, this year’s count was 988, compared to 994 last year.
Arthurs Middle School, however, was up to 679 from 664 over the same period.
“One thing that it does tell us is that our elementary population is continuing to decline, though it slowed down a little,” Savel said. “In the future that will mean declines in middle and high school populations as they move through the system.”
In the Southgate Community School District, enrollment initially appeared up about 40 or 50 students, though the unaudited figures don’t include alternative or adult education numbers, Supt. David Peden said.
The biggest increase was at Gerisch Middle School, which was up about 40 students.
“All the rest of the district washed,” he said.
Peden, like officials in Allen Park and Trenton, said his district saw a number of families moving in with parents, grandparents or other relatives, which may account for the increase.
“That doesn’t take into account the ones we lost,” he said, adding that moves into the city’s numerous apartment complexes may have translated to a slight increase in elementary level numbers.
Whatever, the case, Peden said, “I’d rather be up 50 than down 50.”
He said Southgate has been making some cuts and considering others to prepare for an anticipated decrease in state funding. Legislators recently agreed to a delay in balancing the state budget, which is expected to have an impact on all districts.
If cuts are in line with early projections of $110 per student, Peden said, his district should be OK for the short term.
“If it goes to $218,” as is currently being proposed, “we, like everybody else, will have a big mess,” he said.
The Riverview Community School District’s count Sept. 30 was 2,683, according to published reports, up from 2,614 in February, an increase of 69 students.