After three consecutive years of declining enrollment, officials in the Watertown-Mayer school district are excited about a dramatic turnaround this year.
Watertown-Mayer’s Average Daily Membership — which is used to calculate state aid — is at 1,588 this year, up more than 50 students from last year, when the district’s K-12 ADM was 1,537. The enrollment spike is the biggest since the 2007-08 school year, when the district added 72 students, and will provide the district with hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional state aid.
More importantly, however, the increase in enrollment puts an end to a string of three consecutive years in which the district lost students. After gaining 17 students in the 2008-09 school year to reach an all-time high of 1,645, the district’s enrollment actually dropped by 6 percent, or 98 students, over the next three years. The district lost 44 students in 2009-10, 21 students in 2010-11, and 33 students going into last school year.
A district’s enrollment can fluctuate in part because of the size of the outgoing senior class or incoming kindergarten class. But that played no role in this year’s increase, since last year’s senior class of 109 students was replaced by a kindergarten class of only 103 students. Instead, the spike was caused entirely by new students in the district. Marlette said the district has 110 new students this year, roughly twice as many as the number of students who left the district and enrolled elsewhere.
“For the last three or four years, there have more kids open enrolling out than coming in,” Marlette said. “This year, there are more open enrollees coming in rather than going out.”
The increased enrollment is significant because it determines how much funding the district gets from the state government. While that amount won’t be determined until sometime in October, and students at different grade levels are weighted differently, Marlette said he usually expects each additional student to represent between $7,000 and $8,000 additional dollars. Based on those numbers, the school would roughly be looking at an additional $350,000 in funding from the state.
“I told my principals going into the year that my goal was to get 40 new kids,” Marlette said. “If you get 40 new kids, it pays for the iPads. We got 50, so we basically paid for our iPad initiative with our new students, which is really great.”
Interestingly enough, the iPad program that the new revenue will help cover may be the reason for the increase in enrollment this year. The school district implemented a program this year where each student in grades K-12 is assigned his own iPad, with grades 4 through 12 even taking theirs home with them at night. Marlette said he wasn’t sure how much that program influenced the enrollment spike, but he believes it is a factor. Marlette also said that while the new kids are coming from all over, many came from west of Watertown.
“I don’t know if it’s the iPad initiative that brought them in,” Marlette said. “I’m sure that’s some of it. We have a very good name for what we do here in our schools. I think when people look for a place to land, one of things that’s very important is the educational system. “