A Count Day With No Students

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It's early afternoon on the day when students in the seats mean dollars in districts' pockets. Here at Grand Ledge High School, there are no students to be found.

"We alerted all the staff that this could happen in our buildings because we anticipated that we might have today as a snow day," said Steve Krumm, head of administrative services for Grand Ledge Public Schools.

What do districts do in these cases?

"When we have a snowstorm and school districts are closed on the specific day, state law allows for the schools to use the previous day's attendance," Michigan Department of Education Spokesman Martin Ackley said.

That means in Grand Ledge, Leslie and in much of Jackson and Hillsdale counties, Tuesday's count will be used as the critical February figure.

The state calculates a district's enrollment by blending the February figure with the September one. The fall figure is more heavily emphasized.

One example of critical count days have become for districts: in Eaton Rapids, the district sent a message about count day along with a test of a new emergency alert system of sorts to parents.

"It's an automated message and email system," Superintendent William DeFrance said.

And since the district was testing that new system, DeFrance says, the count day message was included. Eaton Rapids was in session Wednesday, so could parents keeping their kids home hurt the district?

"That's possible but my understanding is we did pretty well in the buildings," he said.

Lansing administrators tell the same story: count day numbers seem to be falling in line. And even if a number of students don't show up, the state allows districts to fix that.

"This is Michigan. We have snowstorms in Michigan, we have thunderstorms we have tornadoes. Kids get the flu," Ackley said.

So districts have between 10 and 30 days to wait for those students to return to keep the state funding flowing.

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