Morenci school enrollment falls 10.06

Written by David Green.

m.enroll.10.jpgBy DAVID GREEN

When the students in Morenci’s senior class started first grade in 1998, there were 71 pupils in three classrooms.

When they walk across the stage next May to receive their diplomas, only 42—or fewer—students will be present.

The Class of 2011 will represent the smallest graduating class since the mid-1950s before consolidation with the country schools.

Not all of Morenci’s classes have declined that dramatically, but there are currently three classes that number in the 40s and three others in the low 50s.

It’s part of a long trend in the district, one that’s been exacerbated by the state’s economic woes.

Morenci certainly isn’t alone in experiencing a decline in enrollment, although four districts showed minimal losses and Madison posted a gain of 12 students. Throughout the county, enrollment declined by about 400 students, including Morenci’s loss of 39 from a year ago.

“It seems to be economics again,” said Morenci Superintendent of Schools Michael Osborne. “Thirty-nine is a small number compared to the total who come in and out [during the school year]. Lots of families are moving. These are difficult times.”

Osborne said that even without the economic factors, population projections made in 2000 showed that school districts in this area would lose students.

A projection for the Hudson district, for example, estimated that enrollment would drop to about 600 students by 2010, but there are actually more than 900 enrolled.

“I’m pleased that it’s stayed as high as it has, even with the economy,” he said.

This year’s decline is close to what the administration projected for budgeting purposes earlier in the year. The budget was based on a loss of 35 students.

“It’s never good to say that you’re losing students,” Osborne told board of education members Monday, “but as far as the budget is concerned, we’re about where we thought we’d be. If there’s any good news, that’s it.”

On the official count day last week, Morenci’s enrollment stood at 760.

RETIREES—Eleven retirees were honored at the meeting: administrator Kay Johnson; teachers Norma Marks, Gina Miklos, Lori Garrow and Mike McDowell; and support staff Georgia Zuvers, Melony VanBrandt, Jim Petry, Rosine Downing, Shirley Hillard and Sandra Hilton.

CAMP—Jane Brasher-Garrow presented a report on the annual fifth-grade camping experience. The camp offers many experiences that many students would otherwise never know, she said. It also helps students develop close relationships with one another and to function together as a class.

She thanked the Morenci PTO for the financial support and the Morenci Education Foundation and Morenci Kiwanis Club for offering camp scholarships to students in need.

ELIGIBILITY—District resident Curt Hollstein asked the board to review its policy on athletic eligibility in regard to academics. He thinks it’s unfortunate to take away the privilege of athletic participation from a student who is making a strong effort. The discussion arose from the new state requirements calling for four years of mathematics, including algebra II and geometry.

Board president Scott Merillat acknowledged that Morenci’s policy was in place before the math requirements changed.

A discussion started months ago, he said, but the former superintendent left the district and a new athletic director and high school principal were hired. It’s time to return to the issue, he said.

“We need to ask for each individual student, ‘What does this student need to succeed?’” Osborne said.

Once realistic expectations are established, he said, the staff must ensure that teaching is done in a manner to meet the needs of each student—and also have supports in place for students who struggle.

VAN—Stair Public Library board president Sally Kruger thanked the school board for use of a van to transport families to the Prime Time reading program.

Osborne praised the program and said the school district should be proud of its relationships with community organizations.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
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    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
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    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
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    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
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    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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