School district enrollment, SOC declines

By David Fleet
Brandon Twp.-District wide enrollment dipped from 2,591 in October 2016 to 2,465 in 2017—down 126 students, according to a data from the student count day. The high school, elementary schools and Schools of Choice students decreased the most, while the middle school dropped slightly according to the report. Count day has major financial implications for public schools. The recent February count represents 10 percent of the per-pupil funding while the October tally accounts for 90 percent. Each student represents about $7,600 in state allowance for the district.
District Superintendent Matt Outlaw addressed the enrollment drop.
“There are less school-aged students in the community,” said Outlaw. “We are graduating large classes and enrolling medium size classes at the lower-levels. When comparing this year’s second graders with this year’s seniors, there are 15 percent less school-aged students in Michigan, 18 percent less in Oakland County and 37 percent less school-aged children within the Brandon School District boundaries.”
Outlaw added, the biggest change has been with Schools of Choice students from the Pontiac area. Also, many Schools of Choice families from the Brandon area are increasingly attending Lake Orion and Avondale due to proximity.
“When addressing declining enrollment, school districts are left with the option of aggressively recruiting students from other communities or right-sizing their districts,” he said. “The issue that you find in many of the most aggressive Schools of Choice districts is that they can lose their connection to the community that they serve.”
The total number of Schools of Choice students in the district is 287 in grades junior kindergarten through 12th grade. Approximately half of what it was in 2012-13 and it accounts for approximately 11 percent of the student population in Brandon. Schools of Choice students account for nearly half of the total student loss in the district over the past four years, said Outlaw.
In addition there are just more choices out there for resident families to educate their children at home, at private schools or in other local districts. The myriad of options impacts enrollment in most communities, he added
“When you have high-proportions of students that are not from the area, you can just become another district that just happens to be in a particular community,” he said. “With this in mind, Brandon has been trying to strike the right balance between attracting high-commitment Schools of Choice families to the district and maintaining strong connections to the Ortonville-Brandon community.”
This has required a little more right-sizing, he said.
“We feel that this is an investment in not only our school’s future but our community’s as well. We want families to move here or stay with us through their entire school experience. We want our school families to be part of all that this tight-knit community has to offer.”