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.

  • 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.
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    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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