Enrollment remains level at Island schools


A trend in declining enrollment over the past six years in Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) leveled off this year, according to a census taken October 1. There are 2,028 students attending town elementary schools and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), compared to 2,034 in 2009.

The seemingly flat figure, however, does reflect a decrease of 25 students at the regional high school that is offset by an increase of 19 in the elementary schools.

“Enrollment is pretty much what we expected overall, although the high school enrollment dropped more than expected,” superintendent of schools James Weiss said.

Elementary school enrollments in grades K-8 are up 1.4 percent, from 1,326 in 2009 to 1,345 this year. Among the elementary schools, Tisbury School gained 23 students, and Chilmark School 9. Enrollment at the Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury schools fell only slightly, by 1, 4, and 8 students, respectively.

At the regional high school, enrollment dropped to 683 students this year from 708 students in 2009. The 3.5 percent decrease continues a downward trend, from 1.5 percent fewer high school students in 2009 and 6 percent in 2008.

Among the K-12 grade levels, kindergarten numbers leaped 18 percent, with 23 more students than last year. There are 19 additional third graders this year, a 14 percent increase over 2009. Fifth grade showed the biggest decrease, down by 22 students.

At the high school, this year’s freshman class has 37 fewer students than last year’s, and the sophomore class has 23 more students.

In comparing high school enrollments by town, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury show the biggest decline since last year, with 12 and 11 students less, respectively. Aquinnah has one less high school student and Edgartown five. Chilmark has one additional student and West Tisbury three.

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 nine percent of each Island school district’s budget, which allows a certain number of students from each town.

Enrollment and budgets

School administrators provided budget numbers to The Times in September.

In looking at enrollment in relationship to school budgets, for fiscal year 2011 (FY11), 1,034 students are enrolled in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury schools, and the operating budgets total about $16,855,102 (not including benefits, insurance, and payroll obligations for staff, or debt reduced by general fund revenues that are paid by towns).

For the 311 students enrolled in the Up-Island Regional School District, the combined FY11 operating budgets for the Chilmark and West Tisbury schools total about $6,226,319 (including benefits and building insurance, but not general liability insurance, payroll obligations, retirement, capital costs, transportation, or debt reduced by general fund revenues).

The regional high school has an enrollment of 683 and an FY11 operating budget of about $12,955,918 (including payroll obligations, transportation, benefits, insurance, capital costs, and debt reduced by general fund revenues).

The Charter School has 180 students and an FY11 budget of $3,500,000 (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.

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

Future projections

As a guideline for future enrollment trends, Mr. Weiss receives projections prepared for the MVPS by the New England School Development Council (NESDEC).

Enrollment projections for fiscal year 2011 (FY11) and beyond from NESDEC last January predicted relatively stable enrollments across the Island, with some minor exceptions.

The study said the number of students from Chilmark and West Tisbury would remain stable, the number from Oak Bluffs and MVRHS would increase over the long-term, and the number from Edgartown and Tisbury would remain stable with small growth over the long term.

NESDEC updates enrollment projections annually, using data provided by Mr. Weiss’s office, including the number of live births and building starts on Martha’s Vineyard.