Most area schools report small losses on count day

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — Relocations for economic reasons are the likely cause of small declines in student populations reported in most area school districts during count day last week, area superintendents said.

But officials are hoping to regain losses in students — as well as state funding — next fall, when schools typically report a higher number of students than they do in the winter.

Count day was originally scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 13, but most area schools were not in session due to weather conditions. Therefore, the state allowed schools to count students the next time school was in session.

Figures are considered preliminary, unofficial and subject to refinement as absences and other factors are accounted for.

Count day is a big deal for Michigan school districts, which usually base a significant portion of their expected revenues on per-pupil funding. This year, per-pupil funding for schools in the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District is $7,871.

However, the winter count is considered less significant than a first count, which is taken in the fall, shortly after the school year begins. Ninety percent of per-pupil funding is based on the fall count, with the remainder based on figures tallied in the winter.

The Chippewa Hills School District reported a decline of 19 students from fall 2018 to winter 2019, going from 1,952 to 1,933.

In an emailed statement, superintendent Bob Grover said: “We do usually drop some in the spring and hope that this will rebound slightly come the fall. … No reason for the reduction is known, but we have had multiple relocations with people moving out of the area completely.”

Big Rapids Public Schools fell by 17 students from fall to winter, going from 2,072 to 2,055. Superintendent Tim Haist pointed out the winter figure this year is higher than last year’s number at the same time, which he counted as a positive.

“I think it’s just people moving to different locations for economic reasons. From time to time, you lose a few kids who may choose to go a different direction as well, but our goal is to bring as many of them back as we can.” he said.

Crossroads Charter Academy saw a small decline from fall 2018 to winter 2019, going from 603 students to 597.

Superintendent and elementary school principal Christopher White said Crossroads expected the fall to be greater, budgeting for 590 students before the start of the school year. With that in mind, White said, he felt the count day result could have been worse.

“We fluctuate throughout the school year — I think that’s generally the case with charter schools anywhere. So, this is pretty consistent with our past trends, in my book,” White said. “Typically, the loss from fall to winter is greater, so this consistency is a good sign, to me.”

There was some good news for area school districts. Morley Stanwood Community Schools reported an increase of nine students from fall to winter, going from 1,164 to 1,173.

“This is the first time in seven years we’ve been able to budget flat. We won’t have to make cuts,” superintendent Roger Cole said. “We won’t be able to do more, but we’ll be able to breathe a little easier.”

Reed City Area Schools Superintendent Myra Munroe, via email, declined to provide the Pioneer with count day figures. She stated the district “does not take a hard look at this data until we get into the 10-day excused (absences) window,” then considers unexcused absences.

Evart Public Schools Superintendent Shirley Howard could not be reached for comment. Last fall, the district reported about 900 students at Evart.

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Posted by Tim Rath

Tim is the Pioneer's associate editor. He also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Veterans pages. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at trath@pioneergroup.com.

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