Some West Michigan school districts reported losing more than 200 students this school year, while other schools said they gained a couple hundred.
Kalamazoo Public School leaders said preliminary numbers show 12,600 students are enrolled for the fall 2020, down 248 students from the 2019-2020 school year.
“In a year with so much uncertainty, I’m pleased that so many families continue to put their trust in Kalamazoo Public Schools,” Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri said. “We cannot wait to see our nearly 13,000 students again in person.”
All Kalamazoo students are learning virtually at least until Nov. 24.
Portage Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bielang said the district has 8,644 students enrolled for fall 2020, a decrease of 269 students from 2019.
Portage students in kindergarten through fifth grade are learning in-person, with the option of learning virtually. Students in sixth grade and up are learning online, but face-to-face support is available.
Bielang said virtual learning has been a challenge and they are doing what they can to support both teachers and students.
“Parents we hear from the most want us to get back face-to-face K-12 as quickly as possible,” he said.
Some West Michigan parents said they can’t afford child care for at-home learning or virtual learning might not best for their child, so they chose to send their student to a school that offers in-person instruction.
Kalamazoo Country Day School leaders said they provide face-to-face teaching and enrollment is up more than 20% from last year.
Classes at Kalamazoo Christian Schools are also in-person. Lead Administrator Marc Verkaik said they have 871 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade for fall 2020, an increase of 74 students from the 2019-2020 school year.
Enrollment is also up for some Michigan online institutions, such as the Great Lakes Learning Academy.
Superintendent Heather Ballien said 1,255 students are enrolled in the Great Lakes program for fall 2020, up 176 students from last year. However, Ballien said, the dollars aren’t following students.
“I’ve seen huge increases in the number of students, you know over 200, in addition to what we would have normally seen,” she said. “I’m not going to see in my revenue, that increase in funding.”
Michigan count day is Oct. 7; that’s when all Michigan public schools tally the number of students attending their schools to determine how much money they will get from the state.
During a regular school year, losing 200 students could mean almost $2 million lost in revenue for a school district. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Department of Education is changing the way they count students in 2020. To avoid penalizing districts losing students, the state education department is taking 75% of 2019 student enrollment and only 25% of 2020 student enrollment to determine future funding.