Auburn student numbers bode well for property taxpayers


AUBURN — Despite a few more Auburn students attending charter schools, enrollment in public schools is about the same as last year, Superintendent Katy Grondin told School Committee members Wednesday night.

That’s good news for property tax payers. A decline in student population translates to less money from the state for education, which could mean higher property tax bills.

As of 3 p.m. Oct. 1, the date the state considers enrollment numbers for state funding, Auburn had 3,586 students, Grondin said. Last year, it was 3,594.

“It’s good news. With the charter school loss it could be worse,” she said. “I’m pleased that we’re maintaining with the charter school impact.”

This year, 29 Auburn students are attending charter schools, 13 at Portland’s Baxter Academy, eight at Fiddlehead Academy in Gray-New Gloucester, seven at Maine Connections, a virtual school, and one at Harpswell Coastal Academy.

The School Department must pay for each Auburn student who attends a public charter school, which costs about $8,000 a year per student.

Meanwhile, enrollment numbers show class sizes range from 20 to 23. Enrollment at Edward Little High School is 949; Franklin alternative, 57; and Auburn Middle School, 479.

Enrollments at elementary schools are: East Auburn, 182; Fairview, 581; Park Avenue, 382; Sherwood Heights, 413; Walton, 283; and Washburn, 247.

Grondin also gave a report on student suspensions filed with the state during 2013-14. There were 39 suspensions at Auburn Middle School, 17 of them for fighting, five for insubordination and three related to marijuana.

At the high school, there were 77 suspensions, 30 for insubordination, 10 related to marijuana, nine for fighting and seven for assault.

Total suspensions are about the same as the previous year, but they couldn’t be compared since the categories have changed, Grondin said.

This fall, a new program by the Auburn Police Activities League allows suspended students, with parental permission, to attend the PAL Center to do school work and get counseling. The goal is to prevent repeat offenders.

Grondin also shared another set of numbers about the free lunch program which began at Park Avenue, Sherwood Heights, Walton and Washburn schools Sept. 8.

The federal community eligibility program provides free lunch to all students at schools where 40 percent or more of them are from families who receive state assistance for food.

One concern of the School Committee in approving the program was families would no longer fill out free- and reduced-price lunch forms that provide household income. That data helps districts receive more state education money to teach students from disadvantaged families.

A new, simpler form is prompting more parents to fill out the paperwork, Grondin said.

Last year, parents of 1,397 K-8 students filled out free- and reduced-price meal forms showing their income was low. This year, the preliminary number is 1,554.

“State subsidy will not go down,” Grondin said. “As a matter of fact, we may have an increase in subsidy.”

In other business, the committee voted 4-1 to approve the Auburn School Administrators Association three-year contract. Details of what the contract cost or saved taxpayers were not available Wednesday night.

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Community school forum tonight

AUBURN — Parents and interested community members are invited to a forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Auburn Middle School to learn what’s going on in the schools.

Officials will share information about customized learning and other initiatives.

Attendees will be asked for their input, which will be used in drafting strategic planning.

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said she’ll start the forum with an overview of what’s going on in schools, followed by small group discussions with administrators on what they like and/or what they’re concerned about.

“It won’t be about debate, it will be about everybody having an opportunity to share their opinion,” Grondin said.

There will be free child care.

Invitations have been sent to residents and notices sent home in student backpacks. “We did a robocall,” Grondin said.

So far, 54 people have registered. Drop-ins are welcome.

“No one will be turned away,” Grondin said.