LOCS enrollment numbers increase slightly, still down from 2019

Middle school numbers far below building capacity, no intention of closing a school, officials say

By Megan Kelley

Review Writer

Lake Orion Community School’s discussed enrollment numbers last week during their regular meeting on Dec. 15.

As was done in years past, the presentation was given to the board by Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rick Arnett.

“This is the time of year where I kind of set the stage. Typically, what I’ve done in the past, is really focus on some historical data and some projections for years to come,” Arnett said. “I’ve decided to add one more to that this year and it’s kind of going to be a two-part presentation; we’re going to talk about current status. I know with us implementing our virtual program, schools of choice and so forth, I want to run through all that.”

Arnett also noted that the district’s enrollment numbers change on a daily basis with move-ins and move-outs.

As of Dec. 1, 2021 LOCS enrollment sat at 6,748 students in grades Developmental Kindergarten (DK) through 12. In-person enrollment makes up the bulk with 6,586 students while Dragon Virtual houses 162 students, according to district data.

In the spring of 2019, there were 7,101 students enrolled across all grade levels, including DK (developmental kindergarten), in Lake Orion schools.

When making their enrollment projections for the 2020-2021 school year, the district had anticipated a decline in enrollment of about 88 students, especially in the lower grade levels, with the expectation that about 7,013 students would enroll in DK-12, according to district data published in a Lake Orion Review on Nov. 25, 2020.

However, while the district projected a decline, they did not estimate as steep of a decline as they ultimately had in October of 2020 when their student count showed just 6,696 students — 405 students less than the district had in the spring of 2020, or 317 fewer total students than they had expected.

Compared to surrounding school districts, Lake Orion’s student count number has dropped below that of Oxford Community Schools, which had a student count of 7,148 as of Oct. 6.

At the elementary level, Lake Orion has 275 schools of choice students (9.45 percent of the total elementary level population) while the middle school level has 153 (9.97 percent of the district’s total middle-level population).

At Lake Orion High School, there are 133 schools of choice students (6.53 percent of the total high school population).

Percentage-wise, all levels hit below the district’s traditional schools of choice target, which is 10 percent.

As far as class sizes, at the elementary level there are nine in-person classes out of the 42 within the district that are above the targeted class size, but are still at or below the current contract maximum.

“When we get above contract max is when we get to talking about bringing in additional support. Typically, what we bring in is an overload assistant,” Arnett said. “There’s a formula based on how many students, how much adult support that they get within that classroom. We currently sit with zero overloads as a district.”

When it came to building capacity and enrollment, one notable number was at the middle school level. According to a “Facilities Assessment Study” done by Plante Moran in 2016, the three middle schools combined have a capacity of 2,632.

However, current LOCS enrollment at the middle level shows 1,540 students across all three buildings.

The same study shows that the district’s combined six elementary buildings are 87.22 percent full, while the high school is 86.98 percent full. Both percentages include schools of choice and Dragon Virtual students.

Despite the middle school buildings having a significant amount of room for new students, it would be difficult for the district to reduce to two middle schools, Arnett said.

With the discrepancy between enrollment at Oakview and Scripps being nearly 200 students, concerns were raised that at some point a building may need to close. LOCS administration, including Superintendent Ben Kirby and Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Heidi Mercer, quickly quelled those concerns stating that they have no intention of closing a school. Administrators noted that, based on enrollment, the district does need all of the current and planned elementary classrooms and that reducing to two middle schools would create two “very packed middle schools for some time,” Arnett said.

“We actually have talked about a number of different scenarios. We do need the elementary (school buildings) and that’s why we move forward with it (the bond projects). Certainly, the strategic plan may give us a different look as we move forward in the future and that might provide some opportunities. I think that’s the piece that we really have to be aware of moving forward,” Kirby said.

Though the idea of closing a school is not one the district is looking at as of right now, Arnett did mention that they may have to look into redistricting the middle schools in order to get a more balanced number of students at each building.

According to numbers from the Oct. 6 count day, only two grades in the LOCS district lost students. Those grades being 10th to 11th graders and 11th to 12th graders. Overall though, the district gained 108 students in total across all grades, kindergarten to 12th grade, from last year.

District data also shows 114 fewer entering Kindergarteners than exiting seniors last school year (2020-21) compared to this school year (2021-22). However, the district’s total enrollment change in K-11 shows 108 more students enrolling across those grades during those same years, which brings the total enrollment change across the district to just six fewer students.

“Most of our classes, when they start with us as Kindergarteners, grow and graduate with more students than what they started with and that is what we look for as a district. We’re not losing students, we’re actually gaining some students,” said Arnett.

This was the final meeting of 2021 for the LOCS Board of Education. Their next regular meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 12 at the LOCS administration building.


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