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October 10, 2012

Districts optimistic about unofficial Count Day numbers

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — Rochester Community Schools has more students in its classrooms than officials expected this year, according to unofficial projections.

Count Day is when all public schools in Michigan tally the number of students attending their schools, which is then used to determine how much state aid each district will receive for that year. Under a new state law, attendance on the new fall Count Day — which is now the first Wednesday in October, instead of the fourth Wednesday in September, after Labor Day — now accounts for 90 percent of state aid, which is up from 75 percent in prior years. The remaining 10 percent is based on the winter Count Day, the second Wednesday in February of the previous school year.

In Rochester, the unofficial number of students in school on Wednesday, Oct. 3, was 14,781, a slight increase from the projected 14,766. Community Relations Manager Debbi Hartman said the count does not include the district’s pre-primary special education, the Rochester Alternative and Adult Center for Education or the students at the International Academy.

Last year at this time, the unofficial head count was 14,736, which means the district is up 45 students districtwide from one year ago. 

The fall pupil counts for the last several years have been 14,845 in 2007, 14,801 in 2008, 14,766 in 2009, 14,746 in 2010 and 14,736 in 2011 — or an increase of 130 pupils in 2007, a reduction of 44 in 2008, a reduction of 35 in 2009, a reduction of 20 in 2010 and a reduction of 10 in 2011.

“About three or four years ago, we had projected that we could start to decrease at approximately the same level that we had increased over the years, so we were projecting decreasing enrollment,” she said. “What this trend is telling us is that that is not happening at the rate we had predicted it would happen.”

This year, each student represents $7,878 in funding from the state for RCS, according to Hartman.

“This increase in students from the projections will result in an increase of approximately $400,000 in our state aid revenues. We believe this is a positive sign that not only is the economy improving, but the excellent reputation that Rochester Community Schools has continues to attract new families to the greater Rochester area,” she said in an email.

At Avondale Schools, Superintendent George Heitsch said in an email that the district’s unofficial enrollment was around 3,800 students, an increase of more than 100 from last year.

“This is great news for Avondale. This will allow us to better meet the requirements of the deficit elimination plan and to rebate some pay to our staff,” he said, meaning the district could take some staff members off furlough and pay them.

Heitsch said the district added one new staff member due to the enrollment increase, which he attributed to the increased enrollment in the programs at Avondale Academy, the district’s alternative education center, and shared-time programming.

The Avondale per pupil allowance is $8,015, according to Heitsch. 

“After all expenses are paid for the alternative programs and rebating furlough time, we should be able to decrease our deficit by $150,000 to $250,000,” he said in an email. “This good news for our budget.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.