Lancer Letter – The Great Carnac

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

If you are old enough to have watched The Johnny Carson Show, you will remember a schtick he did as Carnac the Magnificent. Dressed in a turban and cape, Johnny held envelopes to his forehead, stated what he divined as the answer, and then opened the envelope to read the question that went with the answer.

It is at this time of year I wish I had some of Carnac’s soothsaying skills. In preparing for next year, knowing the enrollment at each grade level is critical. How many supplies and books we need and how many teachers are needed to teach is an answer we can only know when we have a firm number on enrollment.

In February of each year, I look at the present enrollment and see exactly how many students are in each grade level. I then advance them to the next grade level to project the following year’s enrollment. The number of 12th graders is of course deleted to make room for the kindergarten number. But predicting the kindergarten enrollment has become more challenging in this transient world.

We predict kindergarten enrollment based on live birth data which is available to us, listed by the municipality in which the child was born. The data is five years old so we know that some will have moved out and others will have moved into the district in those five years. Since 2011-2012, I have tracked the variance at both elementary schools regarding the number of kindergarten students predicted and the number actually received.

A look at the chart, we can see that in the three school years from 2011 to 2014, we usually ended up with fewer than predicted except in one instance at Edinboro in 2011-2012. Since 2014, we have always had more than predicted in kindergarten – from as low as 2 to as high as 11.

Next year, we have only 45 kindergarten students projected at McKean based on live birth data. Presently, we have 49 enrollment packets and suspect there will be 5 more out there based on what we know. There are presently three teachers in the kindergarten and we like to keep class sizes to 20 or lower in kindergarten so even if we get the highest number ever recorded over the live birth (11), we would be at 56, but . . .

We’ve noticed a trend that is causing problems for the district. People are waiting later and later to register their children for school. While we know that some do not move here until right before the beginning of school, many more wait until days before we start when they could have registered earlier. This wreaks havoc on bus routes and class size. (And this is one of those areas that impacts current students as bus routes are changed at the last minute, etc.)

Residents of the district can help. If you meet someone who has moved into the district recently, ask them if they’ve registered their children for school. Some people don’t realize we are here all summer so tell them to come to the Education Center to get registered. If you meet a resident who tells you they have a child going to kindergarten this year, ask them if they have registered, and if not, encourage them to do so. ASAP!

An unexpected enrollment spike can happen at any grade level like it did in sixth grade this year (16 additional right at the start of the year); however, given the age and needs of kindergarten, it is more critical to know how many we have coming into this critical grade.

So as summer rolls on, I will monitor kindergarten registrations and as we approach the magic number, the question won’t be “will there be later registrations” but rather, “how many late registrations and what grade level?” It’s an $80,000 question – literally – as that is minimally the cost to add a teacher. Can you channel your inner Carnac and make a prediction on next year’s kindergarten’s enrollment?

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion, and not necessarily those of or our sponsors.

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