Number of students enrolled at DPS jumps over last year

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The number of students enrolled via Detroit Public Schools Community District’s database was 55,874 at the end of the first day of school on Tuesday, a figure significantly higher than the first day of school in 2016, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Wednesday.

District enrollment had been projected at 48,524 this year. Last year, enrollment in the district’s database on the first day of school was 48,103.

Although more than 55,874 enrolled this year, the actual number of students who showed up for class on Tuesday was 36,517, Vitti said.

Historically, attendance on the first day of school at DPSCD has been around 50 percent of projected enrollment. In more recent years, attendance on the first day has been closer to 70 percent, Vitti said.

This year, first-day school attendance was about 75 percent of expected enrollment.

“I want to be clear that it is too early to indicate that enrollment has improved or is higher than expected due to the need to improve our data systems for enrollment and with the fact that we are relying on schools to perform headcounts of children until the enrollment system automatically removes students from the database when they do not report to school,” Vitti said Wednesday.

Eleven schools from the Education Achievement Authority – a state-run reform district that closed in June – were returned to DPSCD this year, which meant an estimated 4,000 students from those schools were expected to return to the district. The 48,524 projection included former EAA students.

At the same time, DPSCD was expected to lose about 1,000 students overall from last year, Vitti said.

The district has struggled with enrollment, with many students not showing up for the first two weeks of school, changing schools after registering for a specific one or leaving for charter or suburban schools after enrolling.

Ivy Bailey, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said the district has typically set low projections because historically families move out of the city every year or send children to charter schools.

At the end of last school year, the district only had 46,000 students, Bailey said.

“This is a big jump,” Bailey said of the 55,874 enrolled in the database.

The district continues to have a teacher shortage with 250 vacancies as of Tuesday, Vitti said. The hires of 50 teachers are pending placement in the district.

Bailey and DFT executive vice president Terrence Martin visited several district schools on Tuesday and said enrollment seemed average and classrooms “were not busting at the seams” with the teacher shortage.

“You have to realize all of the students aren’t back to school yet. By next week, they will trickle back in,” she said.

Principals have been requesting additional teachers, Bailey and Martin said.

“I ran into a few classrooms with 40-plus students, and, of course, that’s not ideal,” Martin said. “The impact of shortage is larger classrooms, teachers being stressed and students not having the best environments.”

This is the first full school year that DPSCD will have a locally elected school board and a superintendent after being under state control for nearly a decade.