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Morris Area enrollment higher than optimistic projections

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

When the Morris Area School Board approved its 2008-2009 budget earlier this summer, Superintendent Scott Monson was cautiously optimistic about a projected enrollment increase for the fall.

As students enter their second week of the school year, the projections turned out to be wrong, but in a good way.

Elementary and secondary enrollment at Morris Area are both higher than expected, with the elementary school showing an increase in 20 students from the end of the 2007-08 school year and the high school seeing an increase of four students.

In all, eight of the district's 13 grades are experiencing enrollment increases.

"That is a good thing," Monson said.

Total enrollment for the district was 910 at the end of last school year. Based on projections during spring and summer budget work, Monson predicted enrollment for this year would increase to 919. When the year began, 934 students were enrolled.

There are 450 students in the elementary school, an increase of 20 students from last year. High school enrollment is up four students to 484.

Kindergarten and second grade classes were up 10 students, and the fifth-grade class is 13 students larger than it was at the end of last year.

High school classes fluctuate more, with increases in the eighth, 10th and 12th grade classes, and decreases in seventh, ninth and 11th grades. The 2008-2009 graduating class could be 81 students compared with 68 last year.

Monson said he's enthused by the increases but that more accurate figures will be coming in the next two weeks.

"It's great to have good numbers the first week, but a lot can change," he said. "By the third week we'll have a better handle on it."

The district has experienced a lot of open-enrollment movement in and out of the district heading into this year, Monson said.

At the elementary school, 47 students were involved in "enrollment changes" during the summer, resulting in an increase of five students. Eighteen students moved out of the district, 14 students moved in, and the district netted 11 students total through open enrollment.

At the high school, there were 48 students make changes over the summer, resulting in a decrease of 12 students. Twenty four students moved out of the district, 14 moved in, and the district saw a net loss due to open enrollment, with six leaving the district and four entering.

"We've had a lot of open enrollment," Monson said, "families going in and out of the district. The mobility this summer has been really amazing. It's more than ever before, but it's nothing to be alarmed about."

Outstate school districts have been experiencing declining enrollment for the last 10 to 15 years, Monson said, but that Morris Area maintained steady enrollment last year for the first time in many years.

While the first-week enrollment numbers look good, the challenge is keeping students in the classrooms, he said.

"It's all about keeping kids during the school year," Monson said.

Enrollment steady


Enrollment is steady at the Cyrus Math, Science and Technology School.

Principal Dorothy Jenum reviewed the first week enrollment during the Cyrus School Board meeting on Monday.

Enrollment is at 69.5 students, compared to a first-day enrollment of 70 last year.

Jenum said that the half represents a student who attends CMST for half a day and St. Mary's in Morris for the other half.

Superintendent Tom Knoll said the enrollment numbers will have a positive impact on the school district levy. Knoll asked the board to approve the maximum amount for the preliminary levy.

School board members unanimously approved the 2009 preliminary levy of $160,560, which is a 1 percent decrease from the current levy.

Once the preliminary levy is approved, it cannot be increased.

Knoll said that the district's annual audit is still in progress. The audit results will have an impact on the levy, and he predicted that the final amount will likely change.

The Sun Tribune's Sue Dieter contributed to this report.