Each October, and again in April, school districts in Maine must report their enrollment figures to the Maine Department of Education so that those numbers can be used to determine how much money each will receive in the form of general purpose aid for education.
According to RSU 29 Superintendent Ellen Schneider, the enrollment figures for the 2016-17 school year show the district, which includes Houlton, Monticello, Littleton and Hammond, is up considerably from this time a year ago.
RSU 29 currently has 1,375 students in grades pre-kindergarten through grade 12, which is an increase of 42 students (3 percent) from the 1,333 student population a year ago.
Schneider said she reached out to other superintendents from around The County and found most school districts were seeing decreases in student population. SAD 1 in Presque Isle was down nearly 70 students while Ashland was down 15 students and Central Aroostook was down about 12.
So why is RSU 29 seeing such an influx of students, while other districts are losing?
“We have seen a steady increase in the number of superintendent agreements with neighboring school districts,” Schneider said. “Students are looking to come to our school system. It’s absolutely a good thing for RSU 29.”
RSU 29’s enrollment has remained somewhat stable in recent years. The current enrollment figure is the highest total for the district in recent years. A look back at the district’s totals from the past seven years reveals: 2014, 1,322 students; 2013, 1,326 students; 2012, 1,294 students; 2011, 1,289 students; 2010, 1,304 students; and 2009, 1,280 students.
The district averages an influx of nearly 90 students via superintendent agreements.
Schneider said each superintendent agreement lasts for just one year and must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
“The request has to be in the best interests of the student,” she said. “It is on the superintendent to really scrutinize each one. There have been times that I have denied, but there is an appeals process.”
Students are counted in the enrollment figures at the school they attend, Schneider explained. Therefore any students from SAD 70 or RSU 50 that attend school in RSU 29 are not counted in their respective districts in terms of calculating state aid. Instead, they are counted as students for RSU 29.
Schneider added there also appears to be more people moving into one of the four towns comprised of RSU 29.
“The trick will be to keep these students,” she said. “While we might see a large enrollment in October, all through Aroostook County there is a transient theme of students moving from one district to another.”
Enrollment at RSU 50 is up slightly, according to Superintendent Todd LeRoy. There are currently 692 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through grade 1 in the district. Southern Aroostook Community School has a total enrollment of 344 students, while Katahdin has 348. A year ago, there were 678 students enrolled in classes in RSU 50 with 342 in the Katahdin system and 335 at SACS.
SAD 70, which is comprised of Hodgdon, Ludlow, New Limerick, Amity, Haynesville and Linneus, has a total enrollment of 457 students, according to Superintendent Scott Richardson. Mill Pond Elementary School has 244 students, while Hodgdon Middle/High School has 213.
The district is down nearly 30 students (6 percent) from a year ago, but one factor for that decline may be the fact that Cary Plantation withdrew from the district a year ago and now tuitions its students to SAD 70.
“We are down in subsidy count more but that is because our Cary Plantation students no longer count towards SAD 70 subsidy,” Richardson said. “Of course our number of tuition students will go up significantly which should offset the subsidy loss, although we won’t know the full impact until we receive subsidy information next year.”
Over the past 10 years, enrollment in SAD 70 has declined steadily from 526 students in 2006-07. A breakdown of enrollment figures shows: 525 students (2007-08); 507 (2008-09); 513 (2009-10); 509 (2010-11); 506 (2011-12); 500 (2012-13); 490 (2013-14); and 484 (2014-2015).