Jackson Arts and Technology Academy Makes Gain in Enrollment

Wednesday was the first of two student count days this school year, and those districts and schools saw drops in enrollment of between five and 129 students this fall compared to last fall.

Only the Western School District, Leslie Public Schools and Jackson Arts and Technology Academy — a charter school in the city — reported gains.

Jackson Public Schools did not have a final tally by Wednesday but plans to release the number as soon as it is available, said district spokeswoman A’Lynne Robinson.

“We think we’re level at the elementary. Some are up, and some are down,” Robinson said. “At the middle school and high school, we don’t know.”

Jackson Arts and Technology Academy gained the most students with an increase of 55 students from 108 last fall to a count of 163 Wednesday.

Principal Septembra Williams credits the increase to a new energy in the building, a family atmosphere and a commitment to the students’ educational and social well-being.

She also did some recruiting during the summer that included radio and television advertising and appearances at stores, churches and in neighborhoods.

“We just really go out in the community and let parents know what we’re all about,” Williams said.

Enrollment at Albion Public Schools dropped by an estimated 129 students — the largest number among Jackson-area schools, according to information available Wednesday.

Albion Superintendent Frederick Clarke could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

This week’s student counts are tentative. The state allows districts up to 30 days to account for students who were absent on count day.

Total enrollment — calculated by “blending,” a formula that uses the fall head count and the previous winter tally — is used to determine how much state aid public schools receive.

In other words, when a district loses students, it loses money.

“Our graduation class last year was larger than our entering kindergarten class, so we did anticipate and budget accordingly,” said Linda Brian, superintendent of the Hanover-Horton School District, which lost 14 students from a year ago. “But the bigger issue is that as we decline in enrollment, students don’t all come out of one class. … They’re across the board.”

In other words, it is a challenge to reduce costs because a district cannot simply close one classroom to save money, she said.

Schools with falling enrollment could be hit doubly hard with the state also trying to make $482 million in school cuts. That might include slashing $218 per student in state funding to schools.

“That really, significantly hurts districts,” Brian said.

During the last school year, each Jackson-area student generated at least $7,316 a year in state funding.

An estimated loss of 29 students and the potential cuts to state aid should not prevent Stockbridge Community Schools from maintaining its programs, Superintendent Bruce Brown said. He said the reduction in students was less than the district’s projected 1,650 blended student count.

“The enrollment drop from people leaving the state doesn’t seem to be as bad as we thought it was, but it’s not good,” Brown said.

Napoleon Community Schools lost only about seven students, a drop Superintendent Jim Graham said was a blessing.

“We were hoping to stay at least flat, and I think we accomplished that,” he said.

Area school districts

Student head counts for area school districts with the difference from September 2008 in parentheses:

Albion — 1,046 (-129)

Columbia — 1,660 (-25)

Concord — 884 (-38)

da Vinci — NA

East Jackson — 1,304 (-32)

Grass Lake — 1,251 (-21)

Hanover-Horton — 1,335 (-14)

Homer — 1,026 (-40)

Jackson — NA

Jackson Arts & Tech. — 163 (+55)

Leslie — 1,378 (+13)

Michigan Center — 1,358 (-49)

Napoleon — 1,584 (-7)

Northwest — 2,984 (-57)

Paragon Charter — 644 (-28)

Springport — 1,029 (-5)

Stockbridge — 1,667 (-25)

Vandercook Lake — 1,290 (-13)

Western — 2,870 (+5)

White Pine Academy — 160 (-55)

Sources: Center for Educational Performance and Information, Jackson County Intermediate School District and local school districts

Drops in enrollment will mean less state aid for many Jackson-area schools

By Claire Cummings | Jackson Citizen Patrio…

October 01, 2009, 2:31AM