Morenci enrollment hits projection 2012.10.17

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci school administrators were faced with a good news/bad news situation after the annual student count day Oct. 3.

The good news: enrollment went up.

The bad news: it's still well below the level of a year ago.

Morenci started the school year in 2011 with 744 students, but that number dwindled to 707 by the end of the school year. The recent count showed an increase of 13 students to 720—the number that finance director Erica Metcalf used when setting up the budget for the current year.

Enrollment is a major piece of the puzzle explaining school finances, said superintendent Dr. Michael Osborne, and Morenci would have needed a substantial increase in student numbers to prevent a deficit. Instead, the district will use up its cash reserves this year and face a deficit projected at more than $300,000. In the past, the dwindling cash reserves were used to cover the shortfall.

Enrollment isn’t a factor that school officials can control, Osborne said. Instead, administrators need to focus on disciplined spending, salary concessions, program reductions and capital projects.

M.enroll.2012Concessions are going to the extreme at the Summerfield school district in Petersburg. A deficit reduction plan filed with the state calls for a 15 percent cut in pay for all employees.

Morenci's board of education will consider a contract agreement with three employee groups at the November meeting. That includes food service workers, bus drivers and the district's one custodian at the elementary school. Negotiations with teachers are expected to get underway in the spring.

Another change at the state level could adversely affect Morenci if the situation from last year repeats itself. If a student moves to another district, state funding now goes with the student. In the past, the school where the student was originally enrolled continued to receive funding until a second semester student count created a "blended count" that reduced or increased funding, depending on how enrollment changed.

This year's kindergarten class is six students smaller than a year ago, dropping to 48. The biggest changes from last fall are seen in this year's fourth grade class that lost five students, the sophomore class that lost nine students, and the junior class that lost 10 students. On the other hand, the senior class grew by six students to reach 60—the largest senior class in several years.

The fourth grade is now the smallest class with 41, followed by the juniors with 43.

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    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
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    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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