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Mixed results for local head counts

October 5, 2012
The Alpena News

Wednesday was student count day for schools across Michigan, one of two a year on which schools do a head count of all their pupils to determine, based on a three-year average, how much state revenue the schools will receive.

Tentative figures for most area schools fell in line with what administrators budgeted for, with some variation in trend and magnitude; Alcona, Rogers City and Onaway schools each found a slight uptick in attendance from last fall, and Hillman markedly so, while Alpena and Posen saw small but expected drops and Atlanta a more dramatic one.

Alpena Public Schools counted 3,970 students K-12 on Wednesday, which Superintendent Brent Holcomb said was down from last year but not enough to seriously offset the school's budget, and the official three-year average to determine funding is still forthcoming.

"We will have a slight difference in our official count numbers, but we won't have those numbers until November," he said.

The head count at Alcona Community Schools was 780, or seven students higher than last fall, with 379 students at the elementary school and 401 at the middle school/high school. Superintendent Shawn Thornton was unsurprised at the relative lack of change.

"That was right in line with the number of pupils we anticipated, and in terms of our budget estimate, that has come in at a good number that represents what we budgeted for," she said.

Hillman Community Schools observed the biggest gain, with a count of 519 students surpassing February's count of 502 and last October's 511. Superintendent Shawn Olson said she was "extremely pleased" with the figure and hinted at the possibility of bringing back the school's band and choir programs.

Twelve students new to Hillman Community Schools this fall - five in the elementary school and seven in the high school - had transferred from Atlanta Community Schools, which correspondingly reported a head count of 255, significantly lower than last year. Atlanta Superintendent Don Haskins said the number was disappointing, as he believed last year's count was closer to 300, and the result could be a considerable drop in state funding.

Posen Consolidated Schools lost about 11 students since the end of last year, tallying about 250 students K-12 on Wednesday, though Administrative Assistant Lucia Bruski said the drop was not unexpected and overall student attendance for the day was strong - 97 and 98 percent at the elementary and secondary levels, respectively.

Rogers City Area Schools saw a slight uptick in attendance with a total count of 561, reflecting four more elementary students and 10 more secondary students than October 2011. Superintendent Katie Makowski said the figure was almost exactly what the school had budgeted for, though accountants had yet to adjust for part-time students.

"It'll be a little higher than that once we factor in our shared students ... We provide P.E. and computers at two parochial schools in our district, and then we have the middle school students from the parochials come here for band in our middle school, so we have some shared classes, and then we have some students that are partial students," she said. "We did have more move-ins than what we had anticipated. We've had a lot of families come in from out of state even, and out of area, so it's a little bit higher than what we expected, and we're happy about that."

For the first time in several years, Onaway Area Community Schools reported an increase in attendance by 13 students, amounting to a K-12 student body of about 675. Superintendent Rod Fullerton said first-day enrollment suggested the fall head count would be up slightly, though how that impacts the school's revenue will depend on three-year averages and how many of the students stick around.

"The wildcard is Section 25, part of state's School Aid Act. It says we have to track kids that move in and out from Michigan districts. That could either help us or hurt us later on as kids move to different schools. We could actually lose some, or gain some," he said. "It usually winds up most years we stay relatively neutral. We have some leave, have some come in. It happens every year."



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