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Enrollment Trends

January 15, 2010

One of the issues facing Saline Area Schools is declining enrollment.  It sounds odd to say due to the fact that the number of school-aged children in our district exploded from 3,100 students in the 1991 to 5,150 in 2001.  That growth over 10 years shaped the structure and culture of our school system.  During this era we purchased land, built buildings, added staff, expanded existing facilities – all to accommodate our newfound size.  Our peer group changed both athletically and academically.  No longer did we compare ourselves to Dexter, Chelsea, Tecumseh, etc. we looked at Ann Arbor, Brighton and Novi.

Well, that era is over.  We have about the same number of students enrolled today (5,450) as we did in 2005 (5,425).  Our largest 4 grade levels are all at the High School.  We have 475 students in 12th grade and 385 students in Kindergarten.  If all current K-11 students remain enrolled and we enroll another 385 next year in kindergarten we will be 90 students smaller next year.  That is over $650,000 in reduced foundation payments from the State.

In the 1990’s, being a declining enrollment district had a stigma.  It implied that a community was not healthy enough to generate children during relatively prosperous time in the history of our State.  The stigma too is gone.  Last year, 80% or the districts in Michigan declined in enrollment.  From 2000-2008, only 3 counties in Michigan gained students – Benzie, Macomb and Washtenaw – and the growth in Washtenaw was well short of the growth our county enjoyed in the 90’s.

SEMCOG predicts that while the population of Washtenaw County will stabilize over the next several years, it will be an older population.  This population will produce fewer children, needing fewer schools, fewer teachers, fewer support staff, fewer principals and likely fewer superintendents.  The State of Michigan, and the Midwest in general is dealing with flat to declining population.

Is this a bad thing?  To a degree it is, dealing with a system that ties revenues to enrollment means fewer resources.  This is amplified by the other reductions in funding.  Our system is now built for 5,500-7,000 students, so affording the current structure of the district is problematic.

Are there good things?  Sure, managing fewer students and staff allows us to create a stronger sense of family and community.  We can also gain some operational efficiency by maximizing the use of our active facilities.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if it is a good thing or a bad thing.  The future will be what we make it, regardless of how many students we have enrolled each year.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kelly Saiya-Cork permalink
    January 16, 2010 5:40 pm

    Yes, the student population is shrinking. And therefore it seems that there is now less need for as many upper management/administrative positions or at the very least, compensation. Salary caps set at high levels, $73,000.00, would still attract competitive and superior administrators while maintaining educationals standards.

    Other ways to bring us back down to pre-2001 levels is to offer retirement packages to those teachers who no longer are up to teaching. Many of us know of incredible teachers who have been teaching in the district. These teachers should stay in their positions. However, those who are burned out need to be let go with respect.

    Likewise, administrators who have been unable to decrease their departmental budgets should be replaced with others within the district.

    Rearranging schools is difficult. However if it is done with the children’s education and wellness in mind, it will be workable.

    Reminders of student needs…..
    All children in grades K-6 need recess everyday, outside whenever possible.
    Many school systems are able to provide wonderful educations by placing the junior high school within the high school but maintaining seperate schools.
    Playgrounds can be put removed from one school and placed at a different school. Many adults in the community would be very willing to volunteer these services, as would teens working on leadership projects.

    Our children’s needs are affordable. We must make wise choices.

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