2016-10-13 / Front Page

Student counts fall in 3 districts

S-B pupils migrate to Leland
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

The number of students in Leelanau County classrooms continues to slide.

Enrollment in three of the four school districts dropped, while Leland Public School continues to buck the trend.

A state-mandated student count conducted last Wednesday, Oct. 5, showed that 482 students were taking classes at Leland, up from 475 last year.

“We’re comfortably full,” Leland Superintendent Jason Stowe said. “We have good, healthy, large classes.”

The K-6 student count of 280 is the largest the school has ever seen, with some grade levels at the self-imposed caps of 20 for kindergarten and 23 for grades 1 and 2, set years ago by the school district.

“At 7 through 12, we still have room,” Stowe said.

The student counts at Leland and Suttons Bay public schools are extremely important, as they directly determine how much state aid each district will receive. Leland receives about $8,000 per student; Suttons Bay $7,500. For formula represents a carry-over of inequities in place prior to 1994, when the present property tax system called “Proposal A” was adopted by voters into the state Constitution.

Leland receives a boost in state aid by providing teachers for non-core areas such as Spanish to St. Mary School in Lake Leelanau. The arrangement has worked well for both schools, as this year Leland will be funded for the equivalent of 50 full-time students, bringing its count up to 532 students.

That’s up from 523 students counted last fall.

But Leland is an exception in a county where, according to 2015 Census figures, about 29 percent of the population is age 65 or older. In Grand Traverse County, only 17 percent of the population is over 65, according to Census figures.

School leaders at Suttons Bay say they are pleased with their headcount of 447, which is 60 more students than projected in the 2016-17 budget. However, the count represents a drop from the 466 students counted in 2015.

“We are extremely happy to have more students than we planned in our district,” Superintendent Chris Nelson said.

Suttons Bay counted 170 students in grades K-6 and 277 in grades 7-12.

Neither figure include students receiving instruction through Suttons Bay’s virtual school program.

As of last week, there were 127 students enrolled in “virtual” classes offered by Suttons Bay. However, in order for virtual students to be “counted,” the state requires that there be one, two-way communication a week between the school instructor and student and/or parent for four consecutive weeks.

The virtual total will be tallied sometime next month.

High property values in Glen Lake and Northport school districts put them “out of formula,” meaning the districts generate more in local property taxes than they’d receive from the state. Therefore, school revenues don’t rely on the state per pupil foundation allowance.

Glen Lake, by far the largest school in the county, came in with a count of 717 students — down from 736 counted at this time last year.

Glen Lake’s elementary students came in at 334. There were 60 seventh graders and 79 eighth graders counted for 139 in the middle school.

And high school students in grades 9-12 totaled 244 with individual class sizes ranging from 54 to 73.

The county’s smallest school at the tip of the peninsula is Northport Public School. The student count there was 152, down from 159 in October 2015.

Some 69 students were in classrooms last week in grades K-5. With the exception of four kindergarteners, all classes at this level had double-digit student numbers, ranging from 10 to 15.

Grades 6, 7 and 8 came in at 17, 10 and 12 students respectively.

The high school has 44 students which includes a senior class of just five but a junior class of 17.

Return to top