March 13 2013 12:00 AM

The legacy of declining student enrollment in the Lansing School District continues

Friday, Dec. 14 — For 35 of the past 42 years, the Lansing School District saw a decline in student enrollment. The latest student count data, discussed at length at a board meeting Thursday night, shows a continuing trend.

Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul pointed out Thursday that enrollment in the district has only increased seven times since 1970 — in 1971, 1975, 1976, 1982, 1991, 1993 and 2001. In the other 35 years, enrollment declined from the year prior.

The 2012-2013 projected student count — the numbers of which are used for budgeting purposes — was 13,026, while the actual count came out to be 12,519, said Sam Sinicropi, assistant superintendent of operations. The district missed the mark by 507 students, which equals more than $3.5 million in state aid, the Lansing State Journal reported Thursday.

“There has been a steep decline in enrollment over the past 42 years,” Caamal Canul said. She added that the city of Lansing has experienced a drop in population over the last 10 years as well, particularly in the number of school-aged children and childbearing families. The falling population in the city hurts the district, she said.

School of choice has been a constant problem for the district, as a significant number of students that live in Lansing have chosen to go to other districts in the area over the last 10 years.

Waverly, Holt and East Lansing are the top three districts where Lansing kids go to outside of the district, according to data presented Thursday. From 2011 to 2012, 24 students transplated to Waverly, 36 went to Holt and seven students went to East Lansing schools.

Charter schools have also chipped away at the district’s population since last year. Two brand new schools — Live, Learn, Lead and Nexus Academy — took 87 and 49 students, respectively.

Kindergarten, third, fifth and eighth grades all experienced enrollment declines, while grades 10, 11 and 12 all experienced gains.

Caamal Canul said the district has to be “more competitive” in student achievement, upgrading facilities and ensuring that schools are safe for students — which will hopefully keep families from opting out of the district.

Board President Myra Ford said there needs to be a serious look at why families are leaving if there is to be any change in the enrollment pattern. She thought the district should ask the state Legislature or the federal government for help.

“We’re never going to get the kind of student achievement we want if we don’t address the mobility issues,” she said. “We need to stop that kind of movement.”