The Lansing School District Administration building located at 519 W. Kalamazoo St. Lansing, MI., 48933 Photo by Josh Thall
By Josh Thall
LANSING – The Lansing School District has been dealing with declining enrollment numbers since 1994, but preliminary enrollment counts for the 2014-15 school year have given administrators reason to be excited.
The school district currently has a preliminary count of 12,078 students enrolled for this school year, which is approximately 78 more students than the district anticipated when budgeting for this year, according to Spadafore.
The issues with declining enrollment were in part due to the School of Choice law, which was introduced in 1994. The School of Choice law allows parents to choose which school district they would like to send their children to. Before this law, parents would have to obtain permission from the district they lived in to send their kids elsewhere.
According to news reports, enrollment in the Lansing School District has gone from 20,336 students in 1995 to a preliminary number of only 12,078 students this year.
“I think the largest factor is choice, and people believing that other districts were safer than Lansing was,” Lansing Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul said. “I just think the community lost faith in the district, the community didn’t believe the district leadership was a leadership that they could trust.”
According to Lansing School Board President Peter Spadafore, there are about 3,000 to 3,700 students living in the district who choose to go to school somewhere else.
Susan Eisenhauer said she made the decision several years ago to send her kids to Holt Public Schools because the Lansing School District did not offer programs for her son, who required special attention.
Eisenhauer said that her friend also pulled her kids out of Lansing schools because of overcrowding in the classroom from combining schools.
“My friend pulled her kids out of the district because the school they attended was a K-6 school, and both the school and classrooms were overcrowded,” Eisenhauer said. “As a result she didn’t feel her child could get a quality education”
However, in the early stages of this school year, it appears that people may be trusting the school district more than in those recent years.
According to Caamal Canul, the count of 12,078 is up approximately 128 students from the spring count held in February. The number of enrolled students will not be made official, however, until the count day which is going to be held on Oct. 1 of this year.
Caamal Canul said the school district typically loses 350-400 kids between the fall and spring semesters, but two years ago they only lost about 80 students and only about 25 last year.
“Historically, decline has been a subject we have been talking about since around 1994, when School of Choice was opened,” Spadafore said. “School of Choice has been a contributing factor to the decline, and it looks like we finally started to slow that decline, dare I say reverse it.”
Caamal Canul said that she believes that the community is regaining its belief in the school district.
“I think the number one contributing factor is that the community has faith again in the Lansing School District,” Caamal Canul said. “Because they can choose to go anywhere, with School of Choice, I believe that the community believes in the Lansing School District again as a good option for their kids.”
According to Caamal Canul, the district also has six new magnet schools, which Eisenhauer said could be a contributing factor to the increase in enrollment.
“The magnet schools that the district offers can offer a more specialized education for students. As a result people might choose to send their kid there if they feel that it is a good educational opportunity, and a good way to prepare their kid for college,” Eisenhauer said.