2015-10-15 / Front Page

Student numbers dip, with exception

Counts more complicated
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Leland Public School has got a full house.

The 475 students enumerated in the “fourth Wednesday” enrollment count Oct. 7 represents the largest student body at the school.

“It’s the most we’ve ever had under one roof,” Leland superintendent Jason Stowe said. “Traditionally, Leland has been a teeny school in the low 300s. Now we’re a healthy-size school.”

The school district is the only county school reporting more students in the classroom this year than the same time one year ago. Leland also bucks the decade-long trend of falling enrollment across the county.

Overall, the number of students enrolled and attending classes within the four county public schools has fallen 18 percent since 2010 — from 2,245 to 1,836.

But one set of numbers does not tell a complete story as compiling student enrollment has grown more complicated in recent years.

Notably, the numbers don’t not include “virtual” students taught through Suttons Bay’s online program, nor St. Mary students in classes such as Spanish taught by Suttons Bay and Leland educators.

Also missing from the Suttons Bay count are students enrolled through the Leelanau Montessori charter school, most of whom reside in the Suttons Bay school district. The school, which was chartered in 2010 and is housed on the Suttons Bay Public School campus, had a Fourth Wednesday count of 104 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

In 2010, Glen Lake counted 830 students; Suttons Bay, 775; Leland 467 and Northport 173.

By 2014, that total fell 15.8 percent to 1,889. And this year, the tally was more than 50 fewer at 1,836.

Glen Lake, which is host to 247 School of Choice students included in the count, continues to have the highest enrollment in the county at 736. However, it has lost 94 students in the past five years.

Leland and Northport have hovered at about 465 and high 160’s, respectively, over the past five years.

The most significant change is at Suttons Bay, which has lost more than one-third of its on-campus enrollment in the five-year period. Suttons Bay counted 775 five years ago. Last year, they had 474 on campus and this year — 466.

This year marks the first time in history that Leland’s enrollment eclipsed that of Suttons Bay. Leland’s Oct. 7 count edged Suttons Bay’s by nine, 475 to 466.

“A lot of people have seen our academic programs, athletics and drama programs and see us as the ‘total package’ based on what we’re able to offer,” Stowe said.

The 475 represents the number of students physically within the building. Leland, whose last expansion/renovation project was in 2001, doesn’t have room for many more students and little space to grow as much of its available land is occupied.

About one third of the school’s enrollment comes from outside the district as School of Choice students.

“We’re almost at capacity now,” Stowe said.

In addition to the 475, Leland also has 48 “full time equivalent” (FTE) students from Lake Leelanau St. Mary that receive instruction in non-core subject areas.

Additional students are good for most district’s bottom line as in-formula school districts receive state per pupil foundation allowance for each student taught. The number of St. Mary students included as FTEs in the Leland count has remained constant at about 50.

Suttons Bay also receives state funding for students enrolled at St. Mary and an additional 100 to 200 students who never set foot on campus.

In addition to the 466 in classrooms last week, Suttons Bay provides instruction to 166 FTE students — many who are enrolled in Suttons Bay’s virtual education program.

Some of those students attend the school’s learning lab in Jackson, Mich. Other enrollees are from elsewhere in northern Michigan.

Suttons Bay has issued 71 high school diplomas during the life of its virtual school — including 21 in the past year, according to school registrar Lisa Stark.

Although many of these students are in the secondary grades, a growing number of students receiving instruction through Suttons Bay are in grades K-5.

Using a software program called “Little Lincoln” Suttons Bay teachers are now providing instruction to about 40 elementary students.

“It allows the teacher, student and parent to collaborate virtually,” superintendent Chris Nelson said. “It’s a good combination of interaction and physical materials they have at home with them.”

The program is attractive to homeschool parents who had been covering the cost of the program themselves. It is offered by Suttons Bay for free.

Last week’s count and another taken last spring will be used to calculate a blended count which will determine the level of funding for 2015-16.

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