Havre Daily News
Havre Public School administrators Tuesday reported an increase in student attendance this fall compared with the same time last year. Superintendent Kirk Miller said that over the past few years, enrollment has started to fluctuate slightly, rather than nose-dive as it did for about six years starting a decade ago.
The count reported Tuesday was taken on Oct. 1 and showed a 29-student increase from Oct. 1, 2004, to 1,958 students districtwide. Enrollment on that day is averaged with a Feb. 1 count to determine state school funding.
For several years, HPS lost 75 to 100 students a year, Miller said
”We were jumping off cliffs every time that happened,“ he said.
The drop, which meant a significant drop in state funding, led to the reorganization of elementary schools by grade level, rather than by neighborhood, in 2001.
The state Legislature may consider a new funding formula for public schools, so Miller said he wasn't sure what the impact of this year's numbers would be on the district's bottom line.
If the old funding formula stayed in place, an increase would be a good thing, he said. But that would depend on high enrollment numbers again in February.
Miller also said there was a sharp decline this year at the middle school, with 43 fewer students than last year. At the same time, Havre High School gained 33 students. Districts get more state money for middle and high school students than they do for elementary students, and the increase this year was highest at the elementary level, which gained 39 students, Miller said.
As far as an enrollment trend, an increase at the elementary level is a good thing. Administrators in a September meeting said that in past years, the elementary population consistently shrank, even as the high school gained students. That was evidence that a generation was growing older but not being replaced.
As administrators anticipated the increase observed Oct. 1, they said they expected to see a drop at Havre Middle School and a gain at Havre High School because a small class graduated last year and a large ninth-grade class was coming onto campus.
School board member Joe Marino wanted to know if there was a way for Havre to make the most of an increase.
Miller said there wasn't any strategy, but added that the biggest factor would be the Legislature's school funding decision.
Last year the Montana Supreme Court declared the state's school funding formula unconstitutional and told the Legislature to propose a new formula.