2015-09-10 / Local News

Seamless school start; fewer pupils

By Amy Hubbell Of The Enterprise staff

County students returning to classrooms this week total about 90 fewer than this time last year.

School administrators report a smooth beginning of the 2015-16 school year with all but one counting fewer heads that this time last year.

Leland had 481 students in-house Tuesday, up from 462 last fall and 40 more than this time in 2005.

“We had anticipated 455 or 460 to start and came in at 481,” Leland superintendent Jason Stowe said. “We had a schedule built for it with blended classes in the elementary. We have full numbers in the high school, but none are at capacity.”

When the school bell rang Tuesday, Leland’s enrollment included 243 students in grades K-6; 87 in grades 7-8 and 151 in grades 9-12. The largest class is a group of 7th graders who number 51.

Leland is one of two school districts in the county which rely on state per pupil foundation allowance to fund programs. Leland will also receive revenue from the state for providing instruction in non-core classes to students at Lake Leelanau St. Mary.

A “blended” count of 505 was budgeted for the 2015-16 school year.

A smooth start was also reported at Suttons Bay, where students in the classroom totaled 484. That’s down from 531 from the headcount when classes began last year. But classroom students don’t tell the whole story.

Suttons Bay also receives state funds for students who participate virtually at their learning lab in Jackson and all over northern Michigan.

“The number of virtual students won’t be firmed up for another month or so,” superintendent Chris Nelson said.

Neither will the K-12 classroom figures as kindergarten students will be determined next week when “in home” visits will be completed, Nelson said.

Students returned in big yellow buses after for the past several years riding buses from Bay Area Transportation Authority.

Four bus routes were established, designated as red, green, purple and blue.

“We’ve placed industrial strength colored magnets in the windows to correspond with each of the routes,” Nelson said.

Glen Lake reported 28 fewer students than this time last year. A seamless return to the classroom was reported in the county’s largest school district, which had 742 students in classrooms Tuesday.

“I was impressed with the staff and their ‘getting to know you’ activities,” interim superintendent Mike Hartigan said.

Like Leland, the bulk of Glen Lake students are in grades K-6. Elementary students numbered 353 this week. A somewhat smaller group of 246 were counted in the high school and 143 were in grades 7 and 8.

“It was very smooth,” Hartigan said.

A number of Glen Lake students are “school of choice” transfers from other districts. Grade numbers are capped by the district to maintain stable enrollment.

Northport, the smallest K-12 district in the county, had 165 students when the school bell rang Tuesday. That’s from 176 last year — but even with the student count taken at this time 10 years ago.

Not every district can say that.

County students attending public schools in fall 2005 numbered 2,439. That number doesn’t include the 227 who were at Norris School in the Traverse City Area Public Schools.

The Elmwood Township school has since been closed.

Neither does the decade-old count include students from the Leelanau Montessori Public School Academy chartered by Suttons Bay Public Schools.

Some 102 were counted in grades K-6 Tuesday at the Montessori School.

Leland’s enrollment has grown while the county’s two largest schools by enrollment have dropped.

Suttons Bay had 965 students in grades K-12 at this time in 2005 — the largest student body in the county. About half that number are in classrooms there today, although the Montessori enrollment is not included.

Ten years ago, Glen Lake had 868 — 97 fewer than Suttons Bay at the time. By 2014 the total fell to 770 and again this year to 742.

The total number of 1,872 students this week may change and will be formalized later this month during the fourth Wednesday count mandated by the state.

That will be combined with a similar count taken last February to finalize the “per pupil” foundation allowance coming to in-formula districts like Leland and Suttons Bay.

Glen Lake and Northport are outof formula school districts, meaning they generate more money from local non-homestead property taxes than what they’d receive through the state foundation allowance.

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