Bear Lake school enrollment numbers looking good

BEAR LAKE — Enrollment numbers are something superintendents watch very closely this time of the year because it can have a big impact on their budgets.bear-lake-lakers-200x167

State funding is directly impacted by the number of students enrolled in the school, and when numbers exceed what school officials predicted it usually means they don’t need to make major adjustments to their budget. Bear Lake Schools superintendent Marlen Cordes reported to his board at Wednesday’s meeting on enrollment.

“We are at 281 students right now which is at 11 students over what we budgeted for this year,” he said. “We are very pleased with that number. I usually budget at what we finish the previous year at, so we are happy to see those numbers up.”

Cordes said they will remain cautiously optimistic about the student count until the official state count takes place Oct. 3. Ninety percent of the state per pupil funding comes from the fall count with the remaining 10 percent based on the spring count totals.

The superintedent also was pleased to see 27 students enrolled in kindergarten. There has been a trend of declining numbers at the lower grade levels over the past several years at all school districts in the county because of a falling birthrate.

That is evident in the fact that there are 14 students in the fourth grade and 15 students in the second grade. However, with this year’s kindergarten class and the 23 students in the first grade, Cordes said the trend might be changing, but in the K-12 overall enrollment there are some larger and smaller classes.

“We have a pretty good size senior class this year with 29 students and our sophomore class we have 28 students, but that is where we usually put our foreign exchange students,” said Cordes. “If we put them in the junior class or senior class they have to take the SAT, so we try to keep them in the sophomore class.”

However, besides the second (15 students) and fourth grade (14 students), they also have small classes in seventh grade with 18 students and the junior class with 15 students. A breakdown of the numbers shows 97 students in the grades nine to 12, with 45 being in the middle school (seventh and eighth) and 141 in the kindergarten to sixth grade.

Cordes said the Great Start Readiness Program for preschool is full as is the daycare program at Bear Lake.

“Those are good feeder programs, so we are kind of keeping our fingers crossed that those numbers will hold up,” said Cordes.

The Bear Lake Board also hired a new guidance counselor in Shelly Rife. She will be at the school one day a week.

Board members also heard a report from principal Sarah Harless on items that were donated by the Little River Casino Resort employees. Backpacks, school supplies and other items were given and divided among all the area schools.

Bear Lake Schools Board of Education president Bethany Merrill was selected by her fellow board members to serve as the district representative at the 2018 Michigan Association of School Board’s Delegate Assembly. The MASB Delegate Assembly will take place on Nov. 1 at the Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids. The delegates will decide MASB’s positions on a wide variety of issues impacting education.

Principal Sarah Harless gave the board a review of the M-STEP test scores and how their students did last spring. Like most area schools in the county and around the state, Bear Lake students continue to struggle with the test in several areas.

Local school district and building M-STEP results for all schools in the county and around the state is available at Downloadable data is available at


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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