TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools’ preliminary count numbers reveal district enrollment dipped to fewer than 9,000 students for the first time in more than 19 years.

On Wednesday, public school districts all over Michigan counted their students as part of count day. The attendance numbers recorded, along with those from the February count day, are translated into a calculation that determines the schools’ per-pupil funding.

Superintendent John VanWagoner said the Wednesday numbers would have been too skewed from the number of student absences to share or consider as fact, considering the size of the TCAPS district.

On Friday, VanWagoner said the district counted 93 fewer students this year than last year, bringing the total student enrollment in the district to 8,937. Student enrollment at TCAPS was at 9,030 last year, he said.

According to MI School Data, the last time TCAPS counted fewer than 9,000 students was before the 2002-2003 school year.

This year’s count day results follow a trend from the past decade; in 10 years, TCAPS has lost 1,000 students. Student enrollment in the 2011-2012 school year was slightly above 10,000.

For a number of years, TCAPS’ student enrollment hovered comfortably around 10,000, but in the 2012-2013 school year, student enrollment dipped below the 10,000 mark and has not been up there since.

TCAPS tallied about 400 fewer students last year than the year before.

On Wednesday, VanWagoner said some of the losses can be attributed to the pandemic — parents afraid to have their kids in-person as well as anger over mask mandates — and the housing shortage in Traverse City.

Count day numbers can be subject to change due to absences or suspensions. Students who are absent on count day have up to 30 days to be counted, but VanWagoner said he does not expect the preliminary count number to change substantially.

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