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Where did the students go? Brandon District finds answers

December 18, 2013 - Brandon Twp.- The district lost a staggering 254 students in the past year.

Where did they go?

The answer was presented during the Dec. 16 board meeting. A study of fall 2013 exited students reveals that 100 students actually moved out of the district. Another 70 students, all schools of choice— meaning they reside outside of district boundaries, did not return to attend school in the district this year, with transportation cited as the most common reason.

"One hundred seventy students moved out of district for family reasons, not because of the education they are receiving in the district," observed School Board Treasurer Greg Allar.

Following the October student count, district officials did the exit study, which also found 61 students who attended Brandon last year still reside within the district, but are attending school in other districts, among them, 21 in Oxford, five in Clarkston, four in Goodrich, and 10 at Our Lady of the Lakes. Other private and public schools also welcomed residents of this district. Four former students appear to be receiving all their education online, while seven are homeschooled. District officials were unable to find 12 former students enrolled elsewhere this year, and the assumption is those students have dropped out altogether.

The study was conducted by the student accounting office. Superintendent Lorrie McMahon said central district office staff spent a lot of time seeing where the students went.

"They moved all across the country as well as elsewhere in the state," she said. "Also, up until this year, Pontiac had to transport some (schools of choice) kids. They were coming last year, but not again, because there is no busing. We had 80 students that didn't tell necessarily why they went. (The study) confirms what we know when we look at the real estate in the district— a lot of families moved away."

Enrollment for resident students has been declining since it peaked in 2001 with 3,539 students. For a time, influx of schools of choice students made up the losses, but overall enrollment has been decreasing since 2006. In all, the district has lost 700 resident students over the past 12 years. Over the past two years, the district had lost about 90 students each year. This year, that number doubled to 187 students (while the district lost 254 existing students, the loss was somewhat mitigated by new incoming students). The loss of nearly 200 students equates to a decrease of $1.3 million in state funding.

McMahon said school officials discuss enrollment constantly.

"We will continue to do a good job and hope they see the light and decide to come back," she said. "I don't know if it's possible to increase enrollment when 100 students moved away. We'd be happy if people just didn't move away anymore."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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