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.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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