By JAMES MITCHELL
and TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers
Downriver school districts reported a range of results after Wednesday’s “Count Day,” one of two enrollment confirmations which determine how much public school aid will be forthcoming from the state.
Of the two dates, 90 percent of state funding was determined during based upon attendance the first Wednesday of October; a second count day in February confirms the remaining 10 percent.
School officials said the result of last week’s count could confirm budget expectations for the 2014-15 academic year – provided that student populations meet or exceed budget predictions – or result in the need to make further adjustments. Taylor Schools Supt. Diane Allen said estimates were a challenge for administrators.
“You never know how many will show up until they actually show up,” Allen said. “Once they’re here on the first day we look very closely at the classrooms and do any reconfiguring.”
Allen said that last month the district was able to eliminate nine teaching slots – without any staff layoffs – after anticipating a decline in enrollment.
“That’s the first thing we were able to do,” Allen said. “We’ll be looking at everything else in the coming weeks.”
Elsewhere in Downriver districts, count day ended with mixed results:
Interim Supt. Terry Dangerfield was pleased to report an increase of more than 50 students in the district, with 4,924 in attendance Wednesday compared to 4,872 in October 2013.
“We’ve experienced some more move-ins with people moving into empty housing,” Dangerfield said of the slight increase. Lincoln Park schools received a foundation of $7,126 per pupil from the state, and last week’s report will result in additional revenue for the district.
Dangerfield said the district – unlike some struggling schools in the state – did not attempt to lure students to school with give-aways or special offers to parents.
“We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary,” Dangerfield said. “Since we’re on the positive end there won’t be any immediate change to the budget.”
Dangerfield said that, not having to make any further cuts, the district can put any additional money into fund equity.
Louann Durand, secretary to Riverview Community School District Supt. Russell Pickell, said the numbers aren’t in yet.
“The purpose is to take attendance and find out how many students there are,” Durand said. “We expect it to be close,” said Durand of the comparison in 2014 and 2013 numbers.
The decline in student population was, Allen said, more than anticipated. The district reported an unconfirmed 7,233 students compared to about 7,500 that attended last year. Forecasts had anticipated losing more than 100 students, but the final number was another 130 or so students lower than expected.
“This causes problems with the budget,” Allen said. “We lose students every year and had projected a loss in the spring, but we’re down even from that.”
Allen said additional adjustments will be needed beyond steps taken earlier this year.
Trenton Public Schools Supt. Rodney Wakeham said that per district policy the results of count day won’t be made public until presented to the school board during its next regular meeting on Oct. 13. As with many Downriver districts, Wakeham said budget forecasts called for a decline in student population, expected to drop by as much as 50 students with about 2,700 total enrollments.
Trenton graduated 226 students in June 2014, and in recent years welcomed about 150 new students per year. Wakeham said last week that early signs after Wednesday’s count were promising.
“Right now we’re optimistic that our count will be a little better than anticipated,” Wakeham said. “But we may not see the same number of students.”
School officials from Wyandotte Public Schools, Melvindale-Northern Allen Park Schools and Allen Park Public Schools did not have numbers, but expected to have them tallied in the upcoming weeks.
Southgate Community School District Supt. Leslie Hainrihar was unavailable for comment by press time.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected]. Tereasa Nims can be reached at [email protected].)