The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
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    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
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    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Morenci school enrollment takes a drop 10.1

Written by David Green.


Morenci school superintendent Kyle Griffith expected a decline in enrollment for the 2008-09 school year and he crafted a budget showing 20 fewer pupils.

Unfortunately, even that wasn’t a deep enough cut.

The official student count day last Thursday left Morenci with an enrollment of 842 students, down from 871 a year ago and eight fewer than predicted.

Griffith knows that enrollment declines are a statewide trend. A year ago, 406 of the state’s 552 public schools showed declining enrollment. He’s looked at a 10-year study of Lenawee County schools that shows losses in eight of the county’s 12 public schools.

Still, Morenci’s steady decline over the past three years and the general downward trend over the past dozen is a matter of great concern. With Michigan’s continuing economic troubles, the problem could worsen as families continue to leave the state to find jobs elsewhere.

State legislators are hinting that per-pupil state aid will increase, but that won’t make up for Morenci’s shortfall with enrollment at eight students less than expected.

A decline was anticipated due to the difference between last year’s graduating class and the number of kindergarten registrations.

When classes opened in August, the kindergarten enrollment stood at an unusually low 47—13 fewer than a year ago and a fraction of the size 50 years ago when an all-time high of 117 students were starting school.

Looking ahead, the difference between this year’s senior class and the kindergarten class is 20 students, signaling an additional decline a year from now.

It’s a situation that board members and administrators find very frustrating.

“The community needs to applaud the board because they’ve made some tough decisions to protect the classroom,” Griffith said, “but this time we may not have an option.

“We need to make sure the size of our teaching staff fits our enrollment,” he said. “Finding the right fit, unfortunately, most likely results in layoffs.”

In addition to cuts in the teaching staff, Griffith said he will look at reductions in bus routes and other areas where declining enrollment makes an impact.

“We will continue to work hard to control the things we can control financially and take advantage of opportunities that occur,” he said.

He intends to hold off staffing decisions until the spring so that changes will come at the start of a new school year.

Where are they going?

Over the past dozen years of declining enrollment, administrators have never been able to grasp any clear reason for the trend.

Despite a small seventh grade class, enrollment increased from last year by 13 students in the middle school. Elementary school enrollment went down by 10 as a growth in the developmental kindergarten class moderated part of the huge drop in the kindergarten.

The biggest change came at the high school level. The smallest class in the school—tenth grade with 44 students—decreased by six over the summer. The junior class lost eight students over the summer and the senior class fell by 13.

Administrators haven’t yet had the opportunity to track down where those 27 students are now attending school—if they’re enrolled at all—although Griffith knows a small number are taking classes in Morenci’s alternative school program.

Losses to neighboring districts through the schools of choice option won’t be announced for several weeks, but Griffith said Morenci enrolled 15 new schools of choice students in addition to those enrolled last year. In the last school year, 50 students attended school here from other districts while 44 from Morenci chose to go elsewhere.

Griffith could have nearly matched his budgeted expectations through schools of choice, but seven students were turned away due to disciplinary or behavioral problems in their home district.

“I think it’s good that we’re not just taking anybody,” Griffith said. “We’re careful with who we take and we want to maintain our high standards.”

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