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Posted on Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Back to school: Some Washtenaw County public schools stabilizing enrollment

By Amy Biolchini


Kindergarteners on their first day of school at Wines Elementary School on Sept. 3 in Ann Arbor.

Brianne Bowen |

With students back in school, districts across Washtenaw County have been quickly tabulating enrollment figures to adjust class sizes and staffing levels.

Preliminary information shows a stabilizing trend in enrollment at about half of the public schools in the county since last year. However, for districts like Saline Area Schools, stable enrollment is partly a result of more school of choice students.

Saline Area Schools and Lincoln Consolidated School District were the only two public school districts in the county to see a slight increase in enrollment from the preliminary data. Dexter Community Schools estimated a slight .03 percent decrease in its student population as well.

Districts that appear to be losing students include Manchester Community Schools (.93 percent decrease), Chelsea School District (3.21 percent decrease), Whitmore Lake Public School District (4.13 percent decrease) and Milan Area Schools (7.15 percent decrease).

Many charter schools in the county continue to report increased enrollment in double-digit percentages.

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor Public Schools is projecting flat enrollment this year, said Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift. According to state data, 16,635 students were enrolled in fall 2012.

The district declined to release its preliminary enrollment figures for the 2013-14 school year to due to its own policy.

“Being a large district, we’re still processing,” Swift said, noting: “I don’t think there’s any surprises.”

High school staff throughout AAPS are continuing to drop students from their rosters who haven’t arrived to class yet for the new year, said district spokeswoman Liz Margolis. It's also the largest district in the county with about four times the number of students as the next-largest district.


Registration in the newly formed Ypsilanti Community Schools had reached about 4,000 as of Friday. Students registered in the district in double-digit figures throughout the week, said Superintendent Scott Menzel.

“On the first day, we had 50 students in the high school that hadn’t registered,” Menzel said. “They continue to trickle in.”

District officials budgeted for 4,100 students in the district this school year. Menzel said he’s optimistic that YCS will meet that figure.

Last fall, about 3,300 students enrolled in Ypsilanti Public Schools and about 1,400 to 1,500 enrolled in Willow Run Schools, Menzel said.

“We don’t know what the fallout might be from consolidation,” Menzel said.

Menzel said it's too early to tell how many students have left the district for charter schools.

In the past, districts in Ypsilanti have budgeted for higher student counts and then had to make staff adjustments when there weren’t enough students, Menzel said.

For YCS’ first year of existence, Menzel said the district budgeted “very conservatively…so that if we had more students we could add staff instead of telling teachers that we didn’t have enough students.”

There are still open teaching positions within Ypsilanti Community Schools due to teachers resigning the week before school started, Menzel said.

“From my perspective: most things have gone pretty well for the first week of school, and for launching a new consolidated district it’s gone pretty well,” Menzel said.

Challenging the district in its first week, besides the 50 students that arrived at Ypsilanti Community High School on the first day and hadn’t registered, were delays of 30 to 45 minutes on school buses on the first day of school.

“A lot of things are still in flux with respect to transportation,” Menzel said.


Early estimates show that enrollment at Saline Area Schools increased by 1.28 percent to 5,316.

“We feel like our enrollment is going to be in the neighborhood of where it was last year,” said Steve Laatsch, assistant superintendent of instructional services, Saline Area Schools. “We haven’t lost a significant number of students.”

Larger class sizes at Saline High School of about 450 students have graduated out of the district and smaller class sizes of about 335 are entering kindergarten, Laatsch said.

The gap in class size would have meant that the district would lose money because the state allocates money on a per-pupil basis, but the district has been mitigating the loss of students with school-of-choice spots, Laatsch said.

More than 50 kindergarten openings were filled by school-of-choice students.

In general, the number of students in the district that fill school-of-choice spots has increased, Laatsch said.

“We’ve had quite a bit of interest this past summer and past spring in people wanting to do school of choice in the district,” Laatsch said.

Generally, school-of-choice students come to Saline from Ann Arbor, Lincoln, Milan and Ypsilanti districts, Laatsch said.

“Our overall goal is to try to maintain the current population in the school district,” Laatsch said, noting that it allows the district to continue to offer a variety of programs to its students.

The official "count day" for students in school districts across Michigan is Oct. 2. The data is used by the state as a major factor in determining the per-pupil foundation allowance that each district receives. Foundation allowances account for the majority of a school district's operating revenue.


Initial enrollment figures compiled by as of Friday, Sept. 6. Charter schools included in the list were the schools that replied to

Amy Biolchini is the K-12 education reporter for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

Not sure why the impression continues that the charters get "the cream of the crop". They are public schools and must take whomever applies, as long as there are open spots. There are lotteries for these spots, name-in-a-hat sort of things. There are behavior issues and special ed services, just like the home districts. Kids are not "sent back to their home districts" on a whim. One of the main differences is that the parents must be dedicated enough to get them there every day, as they do not have buses.

Rob Pollard

Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

Ever talk to a charter school parent? I have - a few co-workers, two couples on my block. Nice folks. Unprompted, when it comes to talking about their schools, they mention they don't know how you can send kids to regular public schools b/c of discipline issues and their inability to keep out (quote) the "riff raff", as opposed to what their charter schools can do. So either these parents are all wrong about this, or there is more than a grain of truth to this.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.

Pittsfield and Ben Woodruff - And I call shenanigans on you two. Liddylou is correct; charters must take all the students who apply up to the limit of their space. I have several friends who have their special education kids in charter schools, and have done so for years without any hint from the school administrators that their kids would be better off in the traditional public schools. I've been in the IEP meetings as a friend / advocate for the families, and I've been a very active parent in several AAPS schools. In a total of 20 school years to date, I saw exactly 1 student return to AAPS from a charter school, and that was due to his parents no longer being able to transport him.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 4:17 a.m.

Shenanigans! Liddylou, not true. If behavior issues arise, those kids parents have been told that maybe their child would better fit in a traditional public school, that the charter is just not the right fit, academically or behaviorally.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 12:50 a.m.

I know for a fact that parents of special education students are often told that their child would be "better served" in a traditional public school district. So while technically the charters are open to all, reality is quite different.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

Just an FYI, the majority of the growth for East Arbor can be contributed to offering another grade for this year over last year.

Amy Biolchini

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Based on these preliminary figures, it appears Lincoln Consolidated Schools has been able to stabilize the declining enrollment trend from last year, when its student population dropped by 5.43 percent. Its population has grown by 0.39 percent. Milan schools had about the same 7 percent decrease in population this year that it had last year--which the superintendent attributed to low birth rates in the district.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 2:24 a.m.

Well, Lincoln Consolidated now has a Spanish-immersion at the elementary level. That alone brought in a couple of families I know of who might have gone elsewhere, if not for that innovative idea.

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

@Zytiga, The government collects that data every ten years. Since all children in school were alive during the 2000 or 2010 U.S. Census, they can make a pretty good stab at it. It doesn't even require making predictions about future births since they won't be in school this year.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

Milan's superintendent is attributing his district's decline to "low birth rates in the district." Is he serious? Where are the data supporting this claim? Do Washtenaw and Monroe Counties (the Milan School District includes both counties) report birthrates by school district? Incredible.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

How are the WIHI kids counted?


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:14 p.m.

They count in their home districts, because it's a consortium, not a charter school. The same is true for the EMU Early College Alliance program.

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

One at a time.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4 p.m.

"There are still open teaching positions within Ypsilanti Community Schools due to teachers resigning the week before school started," Menzel said. I find it interesting that Menzel's labor strategy backfired. All staff received and signed contracts that emphasized their at-will employment. According to their language, employment may be terminated by either party, employer or employee, without notice. I am sure that was worded to give administration an advantage. I am pretty sure that it didn't work out the way he planned.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 12:17 a.m.

Zytiga, given the glut of teachers, I wonder why YCS still has unfilled positions.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 12:13 a.m.

Gretchen, nurses have their own advantages that leave the profession in high demand, along with its terms. You are right, at-will is never an advantage. The reference to the administrative advantage has only to do with actual comments by YCS central office administrators, wielding at-will employment as a threat for non-YCS value systems, specifically pro-union behavior.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:32 p.m.

It's not clear why these teachers resigned the week before school. If these teachers were more experienced and likely higher paid, then their departure gives the district an opportunity to hire less experienced teachers at much lower pay. This is good for the district's bottom line. And, the bottom line is the most important thing in education these days. With the glut of professional educators in this area, finding replacements willing to work as "at will" employees (with no job security) will be easy.

Gretchen Ridenour

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

I've been a nurse for almost 30 years. Because I was never bargained for I never signed a contract. I have always been an at-will employee and never felt it gave the administration an advantage.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

AAPS continues its tradition of declining to answer the question, provide the data, or be transparent. Enrollment numbers were not available following "count day" last year either. Charter schools saw increases in enrollment - what reasons would either their administrations give, or would AAPS or other traditional district administrators cite? What were the numbers like at area private and parochial schools? Isn't there a larger question here?


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

I'm really happy to hear that Ypsilanti Consolidated Schools are within 100 students of what they budgeted. Very good!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

They budgeted for a loss of 700-800 students and may actually achieve this goal. This is something to celebrate?


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

Lets talk about the elephant in the room.


Tue, Sep 10, 2013 : 12:08 a.m.

Zytiga, I hope you know what you are really saying. The age of a quality pool of teaching candidates has passed. Who will go into teaching now? What does that say for the kind of adult that will shape our child's life? It is simply a cycle of supply and demand. We are going to have a significant shortage of teachers and we will have to go back to recruiting teachers. With what? With a potential for a middle-class income.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

I agree with BenWoodruff. Charters can send students back to the student's home district. Charters get to keep the cream of the crop and send the rest back to their home districts. Even so, most charters do not outperform traditional public schools. Under the recently revised teacher tenure law and the further erosion of workplace protection for teachers (strikes are unlawful), teachers are pretty much at will employees in traditional public schools. e.g. Ypsilanti Community Schools. The race to the bottom (in terms of economic status) continues in Michigan for public educators. The era of a secure middle-class income for new teaching professionals (while employed and during retirement) is regrettably over.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

Basic Bob, You are right. In the Charter world, the "misfit toys" are sent back to the public schools after count day... This happens in Michigan as well...nobody wants to talk about it or admit it.

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

In charter schools, management has the power to terminate poor principals and teachers. They don't have a whole building full of misfit toys.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

JA Pieper- I see two elephants. The first is Michigan's declining number of school-age children overall. Washtenaw County has been somewhat insulated from that trend by our comparatively higher employment and income levels. The second is parental / family demand for charter schools. Because while charter schools may not out-perform state-wide average achievement, almost all of them out-perform the average of the traditional public school districts where they are located. And they typically do it at lower cost.

J. A. Pieper

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

And, that would be...


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 10:24 a.m.

The charter school gains are distressing.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

Mine went to a charter before heading to AAPS. From what I see? Canton seems to be a better choice since AAPS keeps cutting everything and I don't see anything left after next year as well. The numbers are not surprising either. A lot of parents left after the consolidation to schools of choice. Lincoln, Saline and Belleville are schools of choice. Can't wait to see the final numbers.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

Wow 100 students went to Southpointe !!


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

Why? Because kids on the East side of Washtenaw county actually have a choice?

Great Lakes Lady

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

Laws of supply and demand....