KND student numbers strong for start of school year

BRETHREN — There is always an uneasy time for school districts when they approve a budget for the upcoming year by July 1 based on an estimated student count and then have to wait to see how many  actually show up in September.

Many times districts are forced to make cuts and adjustments in their budget as a result of their opening day student count. It is a problem that Kaleva Norman Dickson superintendent Marlen Cordes and his board of education will not be facing this year.

“We are at 525 kids right now and we have a while before we hit count day, but that is 20 over what we projected at 505 students, so we hope those students hold until count day on the first week of October (Oct. 2),” said Cordes.

Student per pupil funding from the state is based on a blended count of using 90 percent of the fall count numbers form 2019-20 and 10 percent of the spring count numbers from the 2018-19 school year.

“Right now we don’t have any classroom splits (students from two grades in one classroom) and we hired two elementary teachers with one coming in at the end of last year and one this summer, so we are in pretty good shape that way,” Cordes said.

Cordes also informed the board about a unique new extra curricular activity they are starting at Brethren Schools and being joined by several other West Michigan D League schools where they compete in sports.

“We approved a bass fishing team and there are four or five schools in the West Michigan D League who are going to form teams, so we are going start out with three or four competitions,” said Cordes. “It is not a league competition because we don’t have enough teams in the league doing it yet. So it is just kind of a club for now.”

He said they have plenty of safety restrictions in place like only two students per boat in competition and they need to have someone 21 years of age or older running the boat.

“We will just see how many people we have volunteering with boats that we get and take out as many members of the team that we can,” said Cordes. “We are looking at having one meet like on Manistee Lake and they will be on Saturdays or Sundays. It will be done late August and September and the first year we are looking at  just getting enough kids interested and then if we can get some more league teams maybe making it a league sport.”

Cordes pointed out that colleges are forming some of these fishing teams and kids can even get scholarships for them.

“It is an activity in our area that is near and dear to many of our families, so why not?” said Cordes.

Board members also approved clearing up NEOLA Policy 8640 concerning transportation.

“It is just a matter of cleaning up the language and more reflective of where we are at now,” said Cordes. “The old policy was much more restrictive of what we can do for field trips and athletic trips for the students and we wanted the policy to reflect what we were actually doing.”

Board members also named Kathy Fairbanks the district’s voting member at the Michigan Association of School Board’s Assembly on Nov. 8 in Traverse City.  Karen McIntire was named as the alternate in the event Fairbanks will be unable to attend.

Board members also got a legislative update from the superintendent on his recent meeting with other school officials with the Northern Michigan Schools Legislative Association.

“It sounded like as of yesterday the governor was willing to settle a budget and not address fixing the roads,” said Cordes.

He said some of the ideas being tossed out is to take money being generated by the 6 percent sales tax that is ear marked for schools and put it into the roads. Another option being discussed is taking from the retirement fund which would be like refinancing your home and taking the difference in cash.

“Your are just pushing that obligation down the road and we don’t like that because the state is in shape to pay that off in the next 19 years,” said Cordes. “The Republicans are also talking about 1 percent increase to the sales tax, but from the school perspective it generates about a billion dollars. That would leave what goes to the schools and the retirement in place, which would be good for schools.”

He said the starting date of the 2020-21 school year is also being discussed because it has a late Labor Day start of Sept. 7 meaning schools wouldn’t start until Sept. 8. Christmas also falls on Thursday that year and would be two weeks long meaning school would get done about June 18.

“A lot of schools have been applying for waivers and the chamber of commerce is not high on starting school early,” said Cordes.

 

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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 kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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