Slow decline in enrollment continues in SAD 1

Posted Oct. 27, 2011, at 11:35 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For the fourth consecutive year, the enrollment at SAD 1 is being negatively affected by a slow, steady out migration to southern Maine.

At the Oct. 12 board meeting, Superintendent Gehrig Johnson informed directors that as of Oct. 1, there were 1,878 students attending SAD 1 schools.

“We’re down 21 students from a year ago,” said Johnson. “Ironically, the enrollment figure for April 1 was 1,878, the same figure reported for Oct. 1.”

The superintendent said the declining enrollment translates into fewer state dollars for the school district that serves the communities of Castle Hill, Chapman, Mapleton, Presque Isle and Westfield.

“We average April 1 and Oct. 1 enrollments with the previous April 1 and Oct. 1 figures to get an average number that is reported to the state for subsidy purposes,” Johnson said.

“That number has gone from 1,938 in 2010 to 1,878 in 2011. This loss of 60 students translates into a $360,000 loss in state subsidy for next year. This enrollment loss, when combined with valuation increases for SAD 1 that are much higher than the state average, result in continued losses in state subsidy.”

According to data supplied to the board, the recent decrease in enrollment is concentrated at the elementary level.

Mapleton Elementary School saw a decrease of seven students from a year ago with 200 students presently enrolled; Pine Street Elementary School went from 316 last year to 296 this year for a drop of 20 students; and there are 12 fewer students now at Zippel Elementary School with an enrollment of 328.

Presque Isle Middle School, which presently has 422 students, is down three students from a year ago, while the number of students attending Presque Isle High School has increased by 21 students to 568.

There are currently 64 pre-kindergarten students at the Learning Center.

“The majority of relocating students have left Aroostook, but remain in the state.” Johnson said. “These students and their families have relocated to southern Maine, many for employment related reasons.”

Overall, enrollment has been declining over the last 20 years.

Five years ago there were 2,100 students enrolled in the district and in 2001 there were 2,198. In 1995, enrollment was at 2,300 and 1985 it was 2,500.

“We plan to follow enrollment trends closely as we move forward,” said Johnson, noting that class sizes are “very good … especially at the elementary level.”

The next SAD 1 board meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9 at Zippel Elementary School.

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