November 18, 2017

Standish-Sterling district to take closer look at elementary consolidation

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STANDISH — Superintendent Darren Kroczaleski has begun looking at the feasibility of consolidating Standish and Sterling elementary schools, and plans to have more information for the Standish-Sterling school board in October.

Kroczaleski said during the Sept. 12 school board meeting that the district has lost students every year and that trend does not appear to be letting up soon.

“If you look at our enrollment projections coming up for the next eight years, we’re losing students just from the number of students graduating to what we have coming in,” he said.

Kroczaleski said Standish-Sterling had about 100 students in kindergarten through third grade, and that in grades 4-12 there is an average of 122 students. He said that is not an issue isolated to Standish-Sterling.

“That’s nothing different than most districts in Michigan,” he said. “Birth rates are down. They’ve been down since ’08. Until the population increases, or there’s a reason for people to move to our community for jobs or whatever, I’m afraid to say that’s going to be the trend.”

The district currently has around 1,500 students, and Kroczaleski said with that enrollment, sustaining four buildings is a challenge.

Prior to the discussion on building consolidation, Kroczaleski shared enrollment projections, although count day is not until October. He said the district budgeted to lose 100 students and so far appears to be down around 50. Although student loss could be less than projected, Kroczaleski said it is still a loss, and still a hit to the budget.

“Fifty is still over $350,000, so it’s still a significant loss,” he said.

In other school board news, the board approved 7-0 enrolling Standish-Sterling properties off-campus into the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Hunting Access Program. Arenac County’s HAP Coordinator Dawn Hergott presented information to the board regarding HAP. She said the district would likely receive $20 per acre, since its properties are all forest lands, which can receive the full $20 per acre appropriation.

“It’s a nice program,” she said. “It helps financially. Arenac County has two in it. Whitney Township has one. I’m currently talking with the village of Sterling.”

Hergott said she would set up the mailbox and sign-in book at the properties and that liability is typically not a big issue as long as there are no old wells on the property where people could get injured. She said HAP lands are similar to state land.

Hergott said the district has 216 acres total that could qualify for the program.

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