Enrollment continues to slide, BOE prez says


Administrators in the Howell K-8 School District have no plans to close any more schools, despite a continuing trend of declining enrollment.

District administrators closed the 50- year-old Southard School in 2009 due to declining enrollment. Pupils who would have attended Southard School during the 2009- 10 school year were assigned to attend the Aldrich School on Aldrich Road.

“We are not recommending closing any more schools,” Howell Board of Education President Patricia Blood said at a Feb. 3 meeting. “If we were to close another school, it would require a major redistricting that would impact every corner of town.”

Although some classrooms are “close to the tipping point” in the elementary grades, projected enrollments originally showed a decline of roughly 350 students throughout the district for the 2010-11 school year, she said.

The facilities committee decided to look at the past six years of enrollment for more realistic projections and still came up with a projected decline of about 230 students district wide for 2010-11, Blood said.

Online kindergarten registration, which ended in January, was also down, she said.

“We had a slight decline in enrollment over the past couple of years, but I still think it’s not completely unexpected,” Blood said on Feb. 8. “Our demographic report several years ago showed that our highest enrollment in class size was the current sophomores in high school. When they were eighth-graders [in the 2007-08 school year], they were the largest class. Enrollment showed a slight downward trend after that and then a leveling off.”

A demographic report prepared for the board in March 2008 showed the following projected enrollments (K-8 and specialeducation pupils): 2007-08, 7,060 pupils; 2008-09, 6,957 pupils; 2009-10, 6,844 pupils; 2010-11, 6,840 pupils; 2011-12, 6,788 pupils; and 2012-13, 6,772 pupils.

The school district has a current enrollment of about 6,700 pupils.

Blood said she did not think the fact that kindergarten registration was conducted online affected enrollment numbers.

“I really can’t say that’s the case,” she said. “We do advertise in newspapers, send information home. I think when you have a definite date or time frame, sometimes people forget. I think there is a number of mitigating factors.”

The sour economy, which has hampered new residential construction, is one of those factors, Blood said.

The district will continue its policy of “freeze and send” if a particular grade at one school has too many students, Blood said at the Feb. 3 board meeting.

“If Aldrich School only has 100 seats for first-graders and one more student [enrolls], we send that child to a neighboring school where that grade level has an opening,” she explained.