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District sees first enrollment bump in 14 years

Smaller district surrounded by larger districts grows

Comstock Park — Stoney Creek Elementary School is teaching 435 students this year, an increase of 20 students from last year at the kindergarten through second-grade school. 

At Pine Island Elementary, Principal Brian Morrison said enrollment for his third- through fifth-graders has increased to 414 students, up by 31 from last year. Mill Creek Middle School Principal Gus Harju said middle school enrollment on Fall Count Day was 393, up nine students over the projected enrollment in June 2021.

The schools’ enrollment bumps reflect an encouraging trend in Comstock Park Public Schools: it’s the district’s first enrollment hike in more than a decade. 

‘The community feel within Comstock Park is really quite amazing and is one of the most supportive communities I have ever been a part of.’

– Dan Holden, assistant superintendent

Although enrollment fluctuates somewhat, and final tallies aren’t in, overall enrollment in Comstock Park schools has increased by 50 to 75 students (1,763 total enrollment 2020-2021, MI School Data), according to Dan Holden, assistant superintendent of human resources. At a recent school board meeting Holden reported this is the first enrollment increase in 14 years.

Although some students come to Comstock Park through Schools of Choice, Holden said the district is reducing the number of secondary slots it makes available and possibly other grade levels as well. He noted Comstock Park is a smaller district surrounded by larger ones. 

He said although districts across the state have seen decreases in the number of students, Comstock Park administrators are cautiously optimistic about future growth.

Dan Holden, assistant superintendent of human resources (courtesy photo)

“We feel good about where we are and based on current numbers we anticipate growth, but we also want to maintain the level of support we’ve been able to implement the past two years,” Holden said. The increases at the elementary schools bode well for the future, he added.  

“Typically, our students who come to us early in the primary levels stay with us throughout” their school years, Holden said.

Harju believes the district leadership’s vision sets the tone for  Comstock Park to be a growing school district.

“Parents hear from other parents about Comstock Park and send their children to our district,” Harju said. He noted this year 19 middle school students attended school virtually, compared to 125 last year. 

Big Bump in Kindergarten 

At Stoney Creek Elementary, Principal Tiffany Jackson surmises the increase is due to more young families in the Westgate neighborhood where the school is located, along with more virtual students returning back to school. Jackson said the increase in students has allowed the school to  reduce class sizes, while adding three sections of kindergarten for a total of nine. 

Jackson said parents were eager to get their children back in school, increasing the number of kindergarteners this school year.

“I believe with COVID and the unknowns of last year some families opted to keep their children home,” Jackson said. 

Holden is an unabashed cheerleader for Comstock Park schools. He said the foundation for growth began with a consistent and invested board of education and superintendent, many of whom have lived in the district their entire adult life and are generational Comstock Park residents.

“The community feel within Comstock Park is really quite amazing and is one of the most supportive communities I have been a part of,” Holden said.

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Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry covers Comstock Park. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in the mid-1980s and has been a resident of Comstock Park since 2002. She understands the complexity, rewards and challenges of the teaching profession as she has five years of experience as a high school teacher at River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich. and St. Stephen High School in Saginaw. As a reporter for the Advance Newspapers and Mlive she covered Sparta, Kent City and Northview schools. She is happy to be a part of the great team of journalists at School News Network and writing about Comstock Park Public Schools. She is a graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School in St Joseph, Michigan and Central Michigan University. Read Karen's full bio

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