‘Not a big swing, but noticeable’

Some Midcoast schools watching enrollment increases during pandemic

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 10:45pm

    MIDCOAST — In geographical pockets across the U.S., families are relocating amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, either to second homes, or even new homes. 

    In New York, for example, families with second homes on Long Island fled hard-hit New York City and spent the summer transferring their children to schools in the Hamptons, according to the New York Post

    Resort towns in rural Colorado, meanwhile, have been bombarded with enrollment inquiries and schools there have lengthy waiting lists longer than educational leaders can ever remember, according to the Colorado Sun

    Even in the Midcoast, families moving into the area have caused enrollment increases — mostly small, but nonetheless noticeable — in some area schools for the upcoming school year.  Anecdotally, from at least one town office, summer home owners in the Midcoast are settling in for a longer haul, and who knows yet the extent to which that trend is going, except for the property caretakers and rental managers.

    Superintendent Maria Libby, who oversees educational operations for Five Town CSD, which includes Camden Hills Regional High School, and SAD 28, which includes Camden-Rockport Elementary and Middle schools, has seen a rise in new registrations within her district this summer. 

    “Yes, we have noticed an uptick in new registrations from a combination of students transferring over from local private schools and some from out of state,” she wrote in an email.

    RSU 71 superintendent Mary Alice McLean and RSU 3 superintendent Charles Brown, however, have not seen rises in enrollment within their respective Waldo County school districts. RSU 71 serves Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville. RSU 3 serves Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity, and Waldo.

    Out on the Penobscot Bay islands, Chuck Hamm, the Islesboro head of school, reported a small amount of new registrations. 

    “Yes, we've seen a couple of new students due to summer residents staying for the winter,” he reported. “Not a big swing, but noticeable. We're a small school and are able to continue with our already small classes without major complications.” 

    Nationwide, the enrollment trend is not limited to relocating families as parents in states with closed public school campuses are opting to send students to private schools with in-person instruction. 

    That national trend is attributed, according to the National Association of Independent School’s vice president of media Myra McGovern, to parents needing more options for child care. 

    In Wisconsin, Milwaukee area schools are reporting significant and unusual enrollment spikes merely weeks before the school year starts.  

    One private Milwaukee school told WTMJ they recently had more enrollment inquiries in a two-week period than they have ever seen in the last six years. 

    The surges and plunges of enrolled students at public schools around the nation will have financial ramifications to those school districts as public school districts receive federal funding based on the number of students enrolled within their districts. 

    A public school district in Colorado is facing a 36 percent decrease in enrollment amid the pandemic which could cause the district to lose $500,000 in state funding, according to the Colorado Sun

    The Midcoast’s public school districts do not seem poised to suffer significant decreases in state funding due to lower enrollment numbers.