2014-10-09 / Front Page

County schools attract more students

By Patti Brandt
of the Enterprise staff

The number of students in the four public districts located entirely within Leelanau County has crept up from the state-mandated count taken a year ago.

Across the county there are 1,927 students in the four districts — 36 more than the 1,891 that were counted one year ago.

And with 57 kindergarteners in Leland, the school now has three classrooms for its youngest set.

Bill Robinson, president of the Leland Board of Education, said he can’t remember when the district had three kindergarten classes.

Overall, the district has 39 more students than it did last year.

“The increased student count is obviously a good thing,” Robinson said.

Overall in the county, student numbers increased at Glen Lake, Leland and Northport schools, and declined in Suttons Bay. Enrollment has fallen significantly overall in Leelanau County during the past five years, mostly due to the fact that there are fewer children living here.

The issue of declining enrollment will have to be addressed, not just locally but at the state level, Robinson said.

The total count does not include the 241 ‘virtual’ students in the Suttons Bay district. Those numbers represent all students who are taking at least one class online. The numbers will be tallied by the end of the month into ‘full-time equivalents,’ with a student having to take a full load of six classes online to get the full state funding of $7,126 per student.

“We really won’t know the true numbers until the end of October,” said Superintendent Chris Nelson.

Not counting virtual students, Suttons Bay has 511 students this year, compared to 531 last fall.

Nelson said he is happy with that number.

“Graduating class sizes are larger than our incoming class size, which is the story all over the county,” Nelson said. “At the end of the day we’re pretty happy with where we are.”

The district lost a handful of students at the beginning of summer who moved away or transferred out for whatever reason, he said. Attrition — or the difference between the graduates and the kindergarteners — added to that number for a total of between 40 and 50 students, he said.

But that was before the district began running radio and television ads to attract new students.

“We were actually able to enroll 40 kids (online and in class) with our marketing campaign,” Nelson said. “That tells me that we’re educating the public on everything Suttons Bay has to offer.”

Students enrolling in the district’s virtual school can take all of their core classes, as well as several electives online. Students can take one or two classes to augment their school schedule, or they can take all of their classes online. Students now have the ability to graduate from high school without ever having set foot in the building.

Elective classes are also based on student demand and this year that demand led to an online French class.

“That gives our students extra flexibility in the courses they can sign up for,” Nelson said.

In Northport there are 176 students, compared with 167 last fall. Both Northport and Glen Lake are considered ‘out of formula,’ in that they generate enough revenue from local non-homestead taxes — mostly on second homes — that they do not get funding through the state foundation allowance.

With 778 students, the Glen Lake district has a few more than it had last year. Superintendent Joan Groening said that students numbers tend to fluctuate some from year to year.

Five years ago the district had a total of 817 students; last year there were 770 enrolled.

The district also has 32 preschoolers this year that are not included in the count tally.

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