By DAVID GREEN
Five years ago Onsted’s school district was the third largest in Lenawee County, 300 students larger than fourth place Madison. Sand Creek was the ninth largest, trailing Hudson and Addison.
Nearly every school district in the county has lost students over the past few years—very little change at Blissfield and Clinton—but Madison and Sand Creek only grew during that period. Sand Creek's growth is modest, but Madison has increased by about 10 percent from five years back.
The reason is the same one responsible for so many changes over recent years: Schools of Choice.
Without the Schools of Choice option, Adrian would still be by far the largest district rather than just 175 students larger than Tecumseh. Onsted would still have a firm hold on third place, and Blissfield would still be larger than Madison.
Sand Creek would stand as the second smallest district, ahead of only Britton-Deerfield. Among Sand Creek's current enrollment of 927 students, 323 are actually residents of other districts (382 coming in, 59 going out). Among Madison's 1,563 students, 557 live outside the district (775 coming in, 218 going out).
Madison, once one of the smallest school districts in the Tri-County Conference athletic league, now has a high school with double the population of Morenci. Morenci, by the way, was the largest high school in the league when it joined in the early 1980s.
Madison's smallest classes are now in the high school grades, but there are several large ones coming, with three in the 130 range, two in the 120s and a kindergarten class with an astounding 176 students—nearly three times the size of Morenci's.
Clinton is also a big benefactor of school choice (262 in and 63 out for a net gain of 199), and Onsted makes a hefty gain (258 in, 85 out, for a net increase of 173).
On the other side, 298 students from around the county choose the Adrian district while 1,319 leave for other schools, including three who come to Morenci. In Tecumseh, 295 out-of-district students choose to attend school there while 482 leave.
Morenci is currently the only other district showing a net loss—43 students choose Morenci and 71 are choosing to go elsewhere, for a net loss of 28 students.
Forty-two Morenci students are enrolled at Sand Creek, 22 go to Hudson and 17 go outside the county. Morenci gains three students from Adrian, six from Hudson, eight from Sand Creek and 26 from outside the county.
Morenci superintendent of schools Mike McAran said discipline issues and personal problems often lead to changes in school choice, and in some cases students make a change for athletics.
“Now days the lifestyle is, ‘If I don’t like what I’m doing, I’m out of here and gone someplace’,” McAran said. “It’s a much different life.”
Some students leave and return during the course of a school year.
McAran said he learned from another administrator that many students who left the Morenci district in the past year or two made the decision due to the instability and uncertainty that was present in the Morenci district.
A district needs to sell its positives, McAran said, and Morenci has many of them.