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Bemidji Area Schools predicts growing enrollment

BEMIDJI—Bemidji Area Schools predicts that more and more K-12 students will be enrolled there over the next few years, a projection that will influence the school district's revenue expectations for the 2017-18 school year.

Chris Leinen, the school district's director of business services, told the school board on Monday that the "ENPRO" student enrollment projection system predicts the district will have an "average daily membership" of 5,090.5 students at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, up from an average of 5,022.8 in 2015-2016.

The school district's revenue projections for the 2017-18 school year will stem from that predicted end-of-year membership figure—which is based on a hard count of students enrolled in the district earlier this fall, previous enrollment data and factors like county birth rates—because of the way the state apportions money to school districts.

Bemidji Area Schools receives the bulk of its state money from funding formulas that consider the number of "pupil units" the district has. The number of pupil units is based on the district's average daily membership.

Revenue projections for next year's budget, then, go hand-in-hand with the average daily membership the district projects to have at the end of this school year. Leinen said the predicted "ADM" figure will get combined with an audited budget later this winter to predict how much money the district can expect to take in next year.

"ADM at the end of the year is what we get paid on," Leinen told the board. Bemidji Area Schools receives about $7,500 from the state for every "pupil unit" enrolled in the district.

Different models offer increasingly varied average daily membership predictions the further into the future they project, Leinen said, sometimes varying by as many as 150 students after a few modeled years. While that number might seem insignificant in a district with more than 5,000 students, Leinen said it can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in projected revenue changes.

The membership figure is projected to rise to 5,127.9 students at the end of the 2017-18 school year and 5,134.4 the year after that, according to documents supplied at the school board's regular November meeting.

The school district predicts that grades 1-5 will grow for the next three years then level off, Leinen told the board. Grades 6-8 are projected to grow substantially in that time, as well, when those younger students matriculate into middle school and beyond.

"We're looking at filling up the middle school and, eventually then, filling up the high school as well," Leinen said.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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