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November 19, 2013

Student count forecast shows slowing decline

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

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Student count forecast shows slowing decline
Students walk through the halls of Henry Ford II High School Oct. 31. Utica Community Schools says its October student count tallied 28,673 students in the school district.

After years of enrollment declines, Utica Community Schools officials are looking ahead to a season of easing.

The Utica Community Schools District issued findings and projections of student enrollment for the next four years at its Nov. 11 Board of Education meeting.

Chuck O’Connor, UCS executive director of pupil services, presented data derived from an Oct. 2 student count, as well as a four-year enrollment forecast based on historical data.

School officials said O’Connor’s predictions have been close to the actual enrollment counts in past years.

Board of Education President Carol Klenow said the information helps the district with decisions ranging from facility staffing to program planning and the budget. She explained that the district’s main revenue comes from its per-pupil foundation allowance, which means the district gets more funds from Lansing as its enrollment increases.

“The work Mr. O’Connor does is seminal to planning for the district, both long-term and year to year,” Klenow said.

Based on an Oct. 2 student count, UCS has 28,673 students in the district for the 2013-14 school year.

From that total, 14,496 students are attending elementary schools, 6,359 are in junior high schools, 7,585 are in high schools and 233 full-time equivalent enrollments come from parochial students or the Utica Learning Academy program.

O’Connor confirmed that those figures include school of choice students, who reside in other school districts but attend UCS schools.

He also illustrated how the district is losing students. Last year, UCS graduated 2,204 seniors, but this year, it only introduced 1,854 kindergarteners.

“The 1,854 figure is about 19.1 percent of all births in Macomb County,” he added.

To compare the current 28,673 figure to last year, the count from the 2012-13 school year was 28,818 in the official count. The district had originally projected 28,588 for this school year, making the actual count better than expected.

According to O’Connor, the district’s charts have showed a slow enrollment decline starting around 2006-07, when it had more than 29,600 students. Although enrollment is still predicted to decline over the next four years, it is expected to be more moderate.

For instance, the district anticipates 14,229 elementary students in 2017-18, compared to the 14,496 in 2013-14. However, officials believe that a higher birth figure in 2012 means that the trend will ease.

After the meeting, UCS spokesman Tim McAvoy explained that the district’s final figure for 2013-14 could vary by about eight or nine students from the Oct. 2 count in order to account for higher full-time enrollments of night class and parochial students than expected.

McAvoy said the law has been gradually shifting the deadline date for registering new kindergarteners from Dec. 1 to an eventual goal of Sept. 1, and this action has had some impact on kindergarten enrollment figures.

Overall, McAvoy was positive about the data and its conclusions.   “Our enrollment is beginning to stabilize,” he said. “We’re experiencing growth in our housing industry, particularly at our north end.”

Learn more about Utica Community Schools at www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.