Off-campus programs ease attendance at traditional high schools

Two girls work cutting, prepping and packaging slices of cheese cake.

Did you know that at each of the district’s three traditional high school enrollment and expected attendance are likely to be very different figures for any hour of the school day?

As part of its long-range recommendation for school buildings in the district, Fielding International looked at capacity versus enrollment at each building, among several other factors.  Utilization – capacity divided by enrollment – was used to categorize schools as underutilized, right size or overcrowded.

On the digital map, Fielding lists all three traditional high schools as overcrowded, although only one is currently over capacity.  Dearborn High is listed at 131 percent of capacity, and Fielding’s 10-year enrollment projects show it growing to 139 percent of capacity. Fordson High is shown as 93 percent of capacity, but that is expected to fall to 78 percent, or right sized over the 10 year enrollment projections.  Edsel Ford High is overcrowded at 90 percent of capacity and is expected to be a right sized 85 percent capacity in 10 years.

But the raw enrollment figures do not account for a variety of programs that help students pursue their particular interests and have them learning outside their home high school for part or even all of the school day. 

To try to help the community better understand expected attendance – the number of students who should actually be in school – the district is sharing information about these off-campus opportunities. Borrowing an accounting term, we can turn the hours per day that students spend off campus into a full-time equivalent (FTE) or a number that shows the amount of time equal to one full-time student learning outside of their high school.  For example, two students who each spend three class periods (half a school day) in a program at the Dearborn Heights campus would equal one FTE off campus for their home high school.

Together, the off campus programs accounted for 959 full-time equivalent students not on their high school campuses for the 2022-23 school year.  Combined enrollment at Edsel Ford, Dearborn and Fordson high schools was 5,955 in the fall of 2022.  The FTEs off campus represent about 16 percent of enrollment at the three schools.  (See the High school out-of-building chart for details by school.)

Note FTE is also not a perfect tool.  For any given class period, the number of students expected at a school could be notably higher or lower, impacting the need for cafeteria space, classrooms, restrooms, and more. Still, the figures help quantify an important factor in enrollment versus capacity.

The most common reason students are off campus is for dual enrollment.  Dearborn Public Schools, through its partnership with Henry Ford College, has one of the highest dual enrollment rates in the state allowing high school students to take classes at the college at no cost to the student or family.  Across the three high schools, students were spending 1,934 hours a day this spring in dual enrollment classes.  That is the equivalent of 322 students not at the high school for class.

Co-op allows teens to gain meaningful work experience and accounted for 1,540 hours each day outside of school, or the equivalent of almost 257 full-time students.

The Henry Ford Collegiate Academy allows students to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in five years at no cost to the family. College classes for those students start in 11th grade.  By 13th grade a student’s coursework is typically done entirely at Henry Ford College, although the student is still listed as enrolled at their home high school.  The Collegiate Academy accounted for 256 student class hours each school day, or about 156 full-time equivalent students.

Michael Berry Career Center at the Dearborn Heights Campus offers students the opportunity to explore several career fields including areas such as health, law enforcement, hospitality, computer programming and business. Those programs accounted for 890 student hours each day, or 148 FTE students.

The Dearborn Center for Math, Science and Technology welcomes high-performing students from ninth to 12th grade for half the day at the Heights campus, with the other half spent at their home high schools. DCMST included 452 class hours each day, or the equivalent of 75 full time students.

Not included in any of these figures are hundreds of students enrolled in one of the district’s other high schools, including 629 at the Henry Ford Early College on the HFC campus and the 190 enrolled in the online Dearborn Virtual K-12.

High school out-of-building chart

Chart showing involvement in different programs by high school.