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September 21 • 06:09 PM
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Enrollment dips in area schools


District officials on target for anticipating continued dwindling student numbers



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October 09, 2013
TRI-CITY AREA — Just one month into the new school year, districts took their first enrollment tallies on October 2, also known as 'Count Day.'

The results weren't all that different from past years—Almont, Capac, Dryden and Imlay City continue to see their student bodies shrink.

Resigned to the fact that the economy and other factors will continue to chip away at enrollment numbers for the near future, district leaders now assess Count Day results as they measure up to budget projections.

In Capac, there are about 70 fewer students enrolled compared to the district's last 'Count Day' in February—1,294 to 1,224. In the fall of 2012, Capac recorded 1,338.

"We budgeted to lose 73 students so our budget will be pretty close to what we anticipated," Interim Superintendent Dr. Chuck Smith said.

As in the past, Capac used historical trends to arrive at that figure.

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Imlay City Middle School students read in Jamie Siglow's classroom on Tuesday morning.
"It's important to preface these results by saying these are fluid numbers," Smith added.

There are so many factors that influence those numbers so it can be difficult to gauge where gains and losses are coming from.

For instance, the declining birthrate continues to be evident at the ends of the grade spectrum.

"In kindergarten we currently have 83 students but 12 of those are returning from last year so we technically have 71 'new' students. We graduated 100 this spring so we are automatically down 29," Smith said.

This fall 18 high schoolers are enrolled in the Blue Water Middle College. Smith said it's fantastic that that many teens are taking advantage of the opportunity but the district can't count them as traditional students.

Count Day results were also on target when it came to budget projections in Dryden said Superintendent Dr. Gary Richards.

Dryden's enrollment stood at 644 last fall and this year, that number fell by 20 to 624.

"We projected and budgeted for 623 students. Therefore, we are up 1 student, that is, one student above our budgeted projections," Richards said.

In Imlay City, there were 35 fewer students than what the 2013-14 budget anticipated. Last week, enrollment was 2,096, compared to 2,157 in the fall of 2012.

They had budgeted to lose 26 students.

Although the numbers are preliminary and can still fluctuate it appears highly unlikely that Imlay City staff will receive any of the step increases or off-schedule payments written into their contracts earlier this year, Richards said.

For the first time this year, the school district and Imlay City Federation of Teachers settled on a one-time pay bonus for a portion of their membership, contingent on student enrollment. Later, those same terms were extended to administrators and at-will employees. Had student numbers not dropped by 26 or more students, 'step one' and 'step 13' teachers would have earned an additional half-step and one percent off schedule payment, respectively. Administrators and at-will employees would have received a .75 percent off schedule payment.

In Almont the predictions and October 2 count don't match up but that's for the better. Superintendent Joe Candela said the student population decreased by about 20 from the fall of 2012 but that's much less than the 41-50 students they anticipated would leave.

"Our unaudited numbers put us between 1,500 to 1,509," Candela said.

"We haven't had a chance to dive into the School of Choice numbers but that's usually a positive number. The economy is starting to come back too and we're hopeful that will continue."

Candela said the district revises their budget in January which gives them a few months to adjust the numbers and accommodate their windfall.

The second and final Count Day will take place in February. The results from that tally have less (10 percent) of an impact on per pupil funding from the state than the fall count (90 percent).

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she and her family reside in the Capac area where she enjoys gardening and reading.
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