STEVENSVILLE — Lakeshore Public Schools expects to see a drop in enrollment as the birthrate throughout the state declines, district officials told school board trustees Monday.

“We have 30 more kids graduating than we anticipate coming into kindergarten (in the fall),” Superintendent Phil Freeman said.

That would be a loss of more than $236,000 if the district continues receiving state aid at this year’s amount of $7,871 per student.

Chief Financial Officer Tracy Althouse said student enrollment is projected to drop from 2,745 students this school year to 2,634 students by the 2023-24 school year.

Part of the reason is that Michigan has the second-lowest birthrate in the nation. Nationwide, she said the birthrate is negative 5 percent, while Michigan’s is negative 20 percent. Over the past 10 years, student count was at its highest during the 2010-11 school year, when the fall count was 2,944 students.

“That’s, obviously, having an effect on us and an effect on budgeting,” she said. 

She said only four area school districts have seen an increase in their student enrollment in the past 10 years – Eau Claire, St. Joseph, Watervliet and Berrien Springs.

Berrien Springs by far had the biggest increase in enrollment by more than 100 percent due to its online academy, plus she said the district contracts with schools in other regions.

The good news, she said, is that in the 2024-25 school year, enrollment is expected to rise again.

Because funding is tied to the number of students, she said the district must keep a close eye on enrollment trends.

The other item the district watches carefully is how many students are coming and going from the district through the state’s school of choice program.

She said about 85 percent of students living in the district attend Lakeshore schools, with about 350 students in the district attending school somewhere else. 

On the other hand, she said about 430 students from other school districts attend Lakeshore schools.

“So, we are winning, right now, the battle of school of choice – we’re bringing in more kids than are exiting,” she said. 

But percentage-wise, she said the number of students the district accepts through school of choice is on the low side when compared to other districts in the county.

Freeman said that’s because trustees have directed staff to keep the number of students from schools of choice below 12 percent.

Where are Lakeshore students going? Althouse said they are attending St. Joseph, Berrien Springs and Bridgman. 

She said the students coming into the district are coming from Benton Harbor and St. Joseph.

“This is just a snapshot. It’s just a piece of the whole pie. We’re still winning, but there are kids going for various reasons,” she said. 

In other business, trustees approved two projects that will be paid for out of the district’s voter-approved sinking fund.

Trustees approved hiring:

  • Hoekstra Roofing of Kalamazoo for the Roosevelt Elementary roofing job, for $188,000.
  • CPM Construction of St. Joseph to renovate the bathrooms at the high school and middle school, for $623,535.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege