Michigan schools fighting to boost enrollment
Schools in Michigan are going to great lengths to get students. In Benton Harbor schools are going door to door to try and boost their enrollment. Buchanan Community Schools are looking to boost enrollment through an advertising campaign, even putting ads on front pages of papers.
“It’ll boost enrollment or have people take another look at us,” explained Buchanan Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Andrea van der Laan.
Under Michigan’s school of choice law, parents can send their children to any school they want, even if they don’t live in the district. State funding for the schools is determined by the number of students enrolled each year.
“Our district gets about $6,800 per student,” Dr. Van der Laan explained. “So of course, the more students you have the more money you get.”
Buchanan Community Schools are spotlighting their new focus on technology and new programs in newsletters mailed to the community. This year high school students will have access to iPads and more online resources like virtual learning and even web design course thanks to grant money.
“One of the exciting things with being a teacher my age, is trying to figure out some of the new technology that we have here,” explained Tom Gazella, a teacher at Buchanan High.
Buchanan Community Schools are benefitting from the school of choice program, they currently have about 200 school of choice students. But, Dr. Van der Laan says the program isn’t perfect.
“I think school of choice helps when parents are looking for specific things for their students and they want to find a better match,” she explained. “It hurts when parents don’t thoroughly investigate a school system and they see something cool coming out for the first time and they’ve not really investigated it they move and they might be moving for that fad.”
Buchanan Community Schools aren’t without their problems; Buchanan Middle School’s building is in need of repairs and new electrical work. A millage to grant more money for building’s failed in the last election. Earlier this year low enrollment forced them to shut down Stark Elementary, which they say saved them over $100,000 in costs. Van der Laan says they’ve made a lot of cuts and streamlined operations. But there’s not much more trimming they can do, thus the need to boost enrollment.
Right now, Buchanan is gaining students through school of choice. They have about 200 school of choice students enrolled right now. Dr. Van der Laan thinks it’s a sign of good things to come.
“It does feel good and I think we’re on the upswing,” she explained.
Buchanan students return to school in September.