Wednesday, Oct. 2 marked Fall Count Day for districts across the state of Michigan.

Count Days for schools are a very hectic, yet important time in the school calendar. Long before students and staff settle into their fall routines, school officials are working to ensure an accurate student count. From proper enrollment procedures to accurate attendance before, during and after count days, all are audited by Educational Service Districts (ESD) then submitted to the state to determine a school’s total count. For the 2019 school year, Hart, Shelby, Walkerville and Hesperia districts will receive $8,051 per student allotment. Pentwater Public Schools is considered an “out of formula” district. Its school funding comes from local taxes only.

According to information provided by the State of Michigan, “Count Days happen each fall and spring and are mandated through the State School Aid Act. This information is critical to districts because state funding is disbursed based on the number of students in attendance on these days. Pupils must be in attendance and receive instruction in all classes on the count day. If a student is not in attendance, they may be counted if: the student has an excused absence and attends within 30 calendar days following count day; the student has an unexcused absence and attends within 10 school days following count day; the student is suspended and attends within 45 calendar days following count day. Local school boards distinguish between what is considered excused and unexcused absences in their districts. State funding is actually based on a blend of both spring and fall student count (membership) data. The blend is based on the prior school year’s spring count, and the current school year’s fall count. Spring counts occur on the second Wednesday in February and represent 10 percent of state funding. Fall counts occur on the first Wednesday in October and represent 90 percent of state funding.”

Oceana’s Herald Journal contacted each school district in Oceana County asking them to provide their 2019 preliminary Fall Count Day totals. Districts were also asked to provide their Spring 2019 and Fall 2018 count day numbers if possible, as well as how this fall’s count numbers will figure into their projected budgets for the year. Here is what each district shared:

“Pentwater’s district count this year was 266 students. Our student count last fall was 259. We are an out of formula district and do not receive a per pupil funding from the state (like other schools). We get our funding through our local taxes,” said Pentwater Superintendent Scott Karaptian.

“Walkerville is showing a tentative student count of 266 which is up three students from last fall,” said Joseph Conkle, Walkerville Public Schools K-12 principal. “Our initial estimate for this year’s fall count was estimated to be 263 students. Our budget will be positively affected by both this increase in enrollment and the projected increase in the state budget that the governor signed. We are seeing increased enrollment in our elementary classrooms which has us very excited. We believe some of the new staff, programming and initiatives are paying dividends. Hopefully, with more students in the elementary grades, our secondary school will reflect an increase in students over the next couple of years as well.”

“Hesperia Public Schools student count total was 920 students, down eight students from Spring 2019 and Fall 2018 count of 934 students. However, considering the blended count projections we were only one student down from what we had budgeted for,” said Hesperia Business Manager Patricia Budde.

Shelby Public Schools showed a total of 1,246 students on count day. Thomas Read Elementary had 373, New Era Elementary had 182, Shelby Middle School had 292 and Shelby High School had 399. The Fall Count for 2018 had three more students, totalling 1,249 while this past spring Shelby had 1,203 students. Superintendent Tim Reeves said, “We built a budget for less students, and now that the Executive and Legislative branches have worked out a budget for this fiscal year, we will go back to our proposed budget and make amendments as needed.”

Hart Public School’s fall count was 1,271, which was down 55 students from the 1,326 students Hart reported for the 2018 fall count. The breakdown for Hart’s 2019 fall count included 461 for Spitler Elementary; 423 for Hart Middle School and 387 for Hart High School. The Spring 2019 count included 464 for Spitler Elementary, 422 for Hart Middle School and 368 for Hart High School. Hart Superintendent Mark Platt had this to say regarding count, “The difference in count between last year and this year is very concerning. This area of the state is one of the few areas that has to budget with Mother Nature as a factor. Counts in the area have fluctuated in the past depending on the agricultural season. In Hart, we use a formula of a 5-year rolling average of the blended count (Fall and previous Spring). This year the blended count was 1,304. As the school year approached, we suspected the enrollment was going to be lower than anticipated. As a result, we did not fill some positions in order to better absorb the enrollment issue, which is directly tied to funding.”

It is important to note that all district count numbers are preliminary. Actual counts for the 2019 Fall Count Day will not be finalized and submitted to the West Shore ESD until mid-November 2019.

2019 FALL COUNT DAY DISTRICT TOTALS

Hart — 1,271

Hesperia — 920

Pentwater — 266

Shelby — 1,246

Walkerville — 266