RHS enrollment trends up, so do assessments
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) enrollment projections are up, and so are some town assessments, school committee members learned at their Monday meeting.
After several years of enrollment decline, the latest projections from the New England School Development Council (NESDEC) forecast an increase of 30 students a year over the next several years.
In an overview of the NESDEC report, superintendent of schools James Weiss said the 2009-10 enrollment projections show increases at MVRHS and Oak Bluffs School, and stable or small growth in the other Island public schools over the next ten years.
The NESDEC enrollment projections also forecast that Martha's Vineyard Public School (MVPS) students in grades K-12 may increase by 13.7 percent, from 2,344 in 2009-10 to 2,665 in 2019-20.
NESDEC updates Island school enrollment projections using a method called the cohort survival technique, modified with additional information provided by Mr. Weiss's office, including the number of births to residents, housing starts, and the October 1 school census.
"Interestingly, for this year, NESDEC was almost straight on with its projections in every elementary [school] district," Mr. Weiss wrote in his cover letter with the report.
NESDEC's 2008 enrollment projection of 708 students at the high school in 2009 matched actual enrollment last fall.
However, although the projections proved fairly accurate, Mr. Weiss said it is important not to focus on the numbers and to look at trends instead.
What is significant is that the Island trend is changing from stable and slightly declining, to stable and slightly increasing, he explained.
According to the report, the two factors that will have the greatest effect on future school enrollments are an increase in the number of births and decreased "in-migration."
"In the decade from 1994-2003, Martha's Vineyard towns averaged 183 births per year; more recently (and expected over the next 6-7 years) are about 180-216 births annually (with the exception of 241 births in 2007)," the report said.
School committee member Les Baynes of Edgartown noted that although the country is in a recession, the number of high school students didn't fall as anticipated, due to people moving off-Island because of the economy.
In fact, the number of freshmen transfer students at the high school was higher than expected last fall, resulting in a total of 203 ninth graders, a 23 percent increase over 2008's total of 165. NESDEC predicts next year's grade nine enrollment at 194 students, an increase of 18 percent over this year's 164 eighth graders.
Although the projections cover a 10-year span, comments in the report by demographic specialist Donald G. Kennedy noted that enrollment patterns would likely change, once the economy and real estate situation improve.
2011 town assessments announced
In follow-up to the school committee's certification of the high school's fiscal year 2011 budget in December, school business administrator Amy Tierney provided figures for the regional high school fiscal year 2011 (FY11) assessments by town, based on number recently received from the state.
Using the state's statutory assessment method, Aquinnah will pay $250,771; Chilmark, $487, 581; Edgartown, $3,243,939; Oak Bluffs, $3,609, 177; Tisbury, $3,190,717; and West Tisbury, $2,173,732.
Ms. Tierney also included last year's assessments for comparison. For FY10, Aquinnah's assessment was $324,068; Chilmark's, $490,399; Edgartown's, $3,256,320; Oak Bluffs's, $3,298,182; Tisbury's, $3,033,888; and West Tisbury's, $2076,263.
Aquinnah's assessment decreased by 29.23 percent over FY10, Chilmark's by .58 percent, and Edgartown's by .38 percent, due to fewer high school students enrolled from those towns.
Oak Bluffs's assessment increased by 8.62 percent over FY10, Tisbury's by 4.92 percent, and West Tisbury's by 4.48 percent.
In other business, school committee members received a presentation about the World Language department, as well as a detailed explanation from guidance director Mike McCarthy and Title 1 reading specialist Dianne Norton about how the school addresses Education Proficiency Plans (EPP). The plans are required for students for subjects in which they are not yet proficient, based on their scores on Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams.
"Mandates are coming in, costs are going up, and we've had to reduce the faculty," Mr. Baynes noted.
Principal Steve Nixon said the high school has approximately seven classes and one and a half teaching positions attached to meeting MCAS requirements, as well as extra paperwork and conference time.
School adjustment counselor Amy Lilavois also provided a follow-up report on the success of the school's first "Wellness Day" in December, which offered students their choice among 22 workshops promoting whole body wellness.
Upcoming high school events in the Performing Arts Center include the student production of "Rent," Feb. 11-12; a Black History Month assembly program, Feb. 16, 9 am; and an information night starting at 6 pm on Feb. 16 for parents of grade 8 students who will be next year's incoming freshmen.
The school committee's next meeting is March 1, 7 pm, in the library conference room.