Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools enrollment holds steady

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

Enrollment remains the same as last year in Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS), according to a census taken October 1. There are 2,027 students attending town elementary schools and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), compared to 2,028 in 2010.

The seemingly flat figure, however, does reflect a decrease of 14 students at the regional high school that is offset by an increase of 13 in the elementary schools.

“Overall, the enrollment numbers are what we anticipated, basically stable,” superintendent of schools James Weiss said in an email response to a question from The Times. “We expect that to continue.”

Elementary school enrollments in grades K-8 are up about 1 percent, from 1,345 in 2010 to 1,358 this year. Among the elementary schools, Edgartown School gained 17 students, West Tisbury School 6, and the Chilmark and Tisbury Schools 1 student each. Enrollment at Oak Bluffs School decreased by 12 students.

At the regional high school, enrollment dropped to 669 students this year from 683 students in 2010. The 2 percent decrease continues a downward trend, from 3.5 percent fewer high school students in 2010, 1.5 percent in 2009, and 6 percent in 2008.

Among the K-12 grade levels, the first and fourth grades show the biggest increases. There are 30 additional first graders this year and 23 fourth graders, in keeping with an influx of 23 kindergartners and a large third grade class in 2010. Although the number of kindergartners this year increased by only six students, the total of 155 is the highest since 2005. Sixth grade showed the biggest decrease, down by 28 students from 2010.

At the high school, this year’s freshman class has 5 more students and the junior class 16 more students than last year’s. The sophomore class has 27 fewer students and the senior class 8 fewer than last year’s. The total enrollment includes 369 boys and 300 girls.

In comparing high school enrollments by town, Oak Bluffs show the biggest decline since last year, with 18 fewer students. Tisbury has 9 fewer high school students and Aquinnah four. Chilmark has seven additional high school students, West Tisbury 6, and Edgartown 4.

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

School administrators provided budget numbers to The Times in September.

In looking at enrollment in relationship to school budgets, for fiscal year 2012 (FY12), 1,358 students are enrolled in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury schools. The operating budgets total about $17,257,051 (not including benefits, insurance, and payroll obligations for staff, or debt).

For the 318 students enrolled in the Up-Island Regional School District, the combined FY12 operating budgets for the Chilmark and West Tisbury schools total about $6,479,013 (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 669 and an FY12 operating budget of about $13,175,262 (including payroll obligations, transportation, benefits, insurance, capital costs, and debt reduced by general fund revenue).

The Charter School has 180 students and an FY12 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, Superintendent Weiss receives projections prepared for the MVPS by the New England School Development Council (NESDEC).

Enrollment projections for the 2010-2011 school year and beyond from NESDEC dated February 24, 2011, predicted relatively stable enrollments across the Island, with some minor exceptions.

The study forecast that Island-wide, K-12 enrollments would increase by 5 students in 2011, 43 in 2012, and 11 students in 2013. In a summary of the enrollment projections, demographic specialist Donald G. Kennedy’s noted two factors that would have the greatest effect on future enrollments.

One is a rise in the number of births to Martha’s Vineyard residents. “In the decade from 1995 to 2004, Martha’s Vineyard communities averaged 153 births per year; more recently (and expected over the next 6 to 7 years) are about 170-201 births annually, averaging about 31 more births than the earlier decade, a trend opposite the statewide decline in births,” Mr. Kennedy wrote.

The second factor, to a lesser degree, is a fluctuation in “in-migration,” or the number of people moving to Martha’s Vineyard, which Mr. Kennedy said has recently been related to the real estate slow-down.

“As soon as the economy and real estate situation improve in the region, additional in-migration may return to Martha’s Vineyard,” he wrote. “Many communities in the region sold in 2008, 2009, and 2010 to date only about 50-80 percent as many homes as in 2005 to 2007. Building permits have slowed down as well.”

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.