Martha’s Vineyard school enrollment holds steady

Infographic by Kristofer Rabasca

Enrollment is up by 17 students this year in Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS), based on a census of students physically present in school buildings on October 1. That brings the total to 2,075 attending town elementary schools and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), compared to 2,058 in 2012.

At the MVRHS school committee’s meeting last week, superintendent of schools James Weiss noted that the high school’s enrollment of 682 is the same as last year’s.

“Projected enrollments from NESDC [New England School Development Council] said we’d be flat, and we were flat,” he said.

A 1.9 percent increase in the high school’s enrollment last year countered a downward trend over the previous four years, from 2 percent fewer high school students in 2011, 3.5 percent in 2010, 1.5 percent in 2009, and 6 percent in 2008.

Elementary school enrollments in grades K-8 are up by 17 students, about 1.2 percent, from 1,376 in 2012 to 1,393 this year. Among the elementary schools, Chilmark School gained five students, Edgartown School and Oak Bluffs School two each, and West Tisbury School 15. Tisbury School’s enrollment decreased by seven students.

In comparing high school enrollments by town, West Tisbury shows the biggest increase since last year, with 17 more students. Chilmark has five additional high school students. Aquinnah remains the same, with nine. Edgartown has 17 fewer high school students, Oak Bluffs 22, and Tisbury 7.

This year’s freshman class is the largest, with 195 students, and the senior class the smallest, with 145 students. The ninth and eleventh grades showed the biggest increases. There are 27 additional freshmen this year and 20 additional sophomores, compared to last year’s classes. Boys continue to outnumber the girls overall, although they closed the gap a little. The total enrollment includes 356 boys and 326 girls, compared to 364 boys and 318 girls last year.

Among the K-8 grade levels, third-graders outnumber their peers, at 170. And, there are an additional 33 of them this year, compared to last.

Enrollment at Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School is 180 students, as capped by the state. The Charter School’s funding is limited by the state to a specified percentage of each Island school district’s net school spending, which allows for a certain number of students from each town.

Enrollment and budgets

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires schools to conduct the October 1 census. Enrollment numbers are used in calculations for funding and to determine town assessments.

School administrators provided budget numbers to The Times in September. Island taxpayers spend generously on education, contributing approximately $43,637,102 this year to support seven schools.

In looking at enrollment in relationship to school budgets, for fiscal year 2014 (FY14), 1,057 students are enrolled in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury schools. The operating budgets total about $18,566,127 (not including benefits, insurance, and payroll obligations for staff, or debt).

For the 336 students enrolled in the Up-Island Regional School District, the combined FY14 operating budgets for the Chilmark and West Tisbury schools total about $6,862,011 (including benefits and building insurance, but not general liability insurance, payroll obligations, retirement, capital costs, transportation, or debt reduced by general fund revenue).

The regional high school has an enrollment of 682 and an FY14 operating budget of about $14,508,964 (including payroll obligations, transportation, benefits, insurance, capital costs, and debt reduced by general fund revenue).

The Charter School has 180 students and an FY14 budget of $3,700,000 (including benefits and insurance). Charter schools receive per-pupil allocations from the state only for operational costs and must rely on private fundraising for capital improvements, building and site fees.

Future projections

As a guideline for future enrollment trends, Superintendent Weiss receives projections prepared for the MVPS by NESDC. The not-for-profit educational organization provides enrollment projections as a service to its members.

NESDC enrollment projections dated January 25, 2013, predicted Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools would gain 26 students this school year, an increase of about 1.1 percent. NESDC updates the Island schools’ enrollment projections annually using the Cohort Survival Model, which is modified with additional information provided by his office, including the number of live births to residents, housing starts, and the October 1 school census, according to Mr. Weiss.