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News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, October 17, 2013
Deer Isle-Stonington School enrollment holding steady, likely to “even out” in future

by Jessica Brophy

This year’s freshman class at Deer Isle-Stonington High School includes four students from across the Reach and totals only 18, according to principal Todd West.

There are a total of 109 students in the high school this year, said West. The number is still moving around a bit, as it usually does in the early part of the year.

Having an enrollment that is around 110 means some major challenges when it comes to scheduling, in particular.

The K-12 population this year is around 327 students. In 1993, that number was 502 students.

“If there are only 18 freshman, that means that we will only offer one section of math, or one section of history,” said West. This means that if students want to take a foreign language or art, it’s hard to schedule around those classes, he continued.

The question that keeps coming up each year, said West, is how to reduce staff if student enrollment has dropped. “But at this point, it’s hard to reduce staffing without affecting programs,” he continued. “It presents challenges.”

This year, there is no golf team at the high school. West said golf tends to go in cycles, and last year graduated a large number of golfers. “It’s a small enough sport that it comes and goes,” said West.

The elementary school is “holding steady” at 218, which is about where it has been the past few years, said principal Mike Benjamin.

From the seventh grade to the current seniors, the trend has been unevenness—with a larger class followed by a smaller class. Take, for instance, this year’s eighth grade class. It has 34 students, while the seventh grade has only 15.

Benjamin said from the sixth grade down through kindergarten, and according to birth records, the number of children is relatively stable, with between 20 and 30 students per class, most in the mid 20s. This means the class-by-grade population will “even out.”

There is certainly room for growth in the school population, said Benjamin. “We could service 50 more kids with our current staff, assuming they were spread over the grades,” said Benjamin. The problem is, in terms of reducing staff now, the grades are “right at the tipping point.”

There isn’t much that can be done to impact the demographics of the island, said West, which show an aging shift. And it’s not just a problem facing the island schools, he continued.

“Pretty much everyone in this part of the state is struggling with the same issues,” said West.

2013-2014 Enrollment figures

K   28

1   26

2   23

3   23

4   22

5   27

6   20

7   15

8   34

9   18

10  28

11  25

12  38

Total 327