By Jesse O’Brien
Williamston Post staff writer
Schools in the Williamston Community School district have seen an increase in students since a head count was taken last February.Enrollment numbers have jumped from 1,855 to 1,891 since then, according to results from the district’s count day, which was taken on Oct. 5. The increase in students is about 36 more than the school budgeted for in the school year.
“With numbers higher than we anticipated in the spring, we’ve had to add three new classrooms,” superintendent Narda Murphy said. “We also have six teachers who are teaching on their planning hour to absorb the increase there.”
She added that one of the biggest challenges has been adjusting to a new kindergarten schedule, which has the students going to school for an entire day instead of the usual half-day schedule.
Murphy said the increase in students was not enough to warrant the hiring of new teachers. She said by having those six employees teach on their planning hour, it cut down on what the cost would have been for those extra students.
The increase in students also means the district will receive more education funding from the state. Due to a change in state funding, 90 percent of the funding for the schools will come from the October count day while 10 percent comes from the count day in February. The ratio was previously 75 percent coming from fall count day and 25 percent from the winter date.
Williamston High School principal Jeff Thoenes said the biggest impact the increase in enrollment had on the students was that it enabled the school to reinstate a library position which had been eliminated the previous year.
“Last year, the position of our media center professional aide was eliminated, and we started the year without any library media support,” Thoenes said. “With the increase of student population and corresponding increase in state funding, we were able to replace that position, and we now have a library open again to the students.”
Murphy said some of the difficulty with budgeting for the district was because of the nation’s economy. She said it was hard to predict whether people would be moving into the area or out, but she had spoken to a local realtor who told her that more people are moving into Williamston.
The district might also be benefiting from its reputation. Schools in the district were recently ranked highly in the Michigan Department of Education’s Top to Bottom school ranking list. Williamston High School was ranked in the 86th percentile for schools in the state, while Williamston Middle School scored in the 82nd and Discovery Elementary in the 71st.