Big Events Get Kids To School On Count Day

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Laptops, raffle prizes, even Nike sneakers are incentives for just showing up to class in some Detroit Public Schools on Wednesday.

In this area, though, good attendance on Fall Count Day all comes down to good planning.

It just so happens International Walk to School Day falls on Oct. 3.

"My son has been counting down for three days to come today for all the activities," Bobbi Unbehaun-Wise said. "He's like really excited. He even called Grandma and Grandpa last night."

More than 200 people met for bagels at the principal's house, and then walked just under a mile to Horizon Elementary in Holt.

"Although we prefer our families to just celebrate learning every single day, it's nice to gather for walk to school day, and walk on count day," said Principal David Hornak. "And I'm really proud, we jumped from last year about 30 additional people walking to school with us."

Several other schools hosted a walk, including East Lansing and DeWitt. It's a healthy way to guarantee attendance on a day that decides 90 percent of a school's funding. The Michigan Department of Education calls this a critical day.

"A lot of their budgets today are going to be based on what happens today in their districts," said Michigan Department of Education Analyst Brian Ciloski.

Most schools didn't offer so much as pizza or popcorn, but picture day is another popular way of getting kids to school.

"We don't need any other incentives for count day, because our picture day covers it," said Principal Mary Joe Raczkowski-Shannon at Hunt Elementary in Jackson. "We only had 18 students out of 464 absent. So, that's a pretty good percentage, and we really don't need anything else."

She's had picture day coincide with count day for the past 13 years as principal, and she said the numbers keep getting better. The kids might look like a million bucks, but each one actually represents $7,000 to $12,000 in state money.

"If they're absent, we have rules to find a way to help districts to claim a student in those cases," Ciloski said.

Students can still be counted for 30 days if it's an excused absence on Wednesday and 10 days if it was unexcused.

Preliminary numbers for the Lansing School District are at 12,600. The district said that's about 400 under their projected number, but it will likely change in the next couple of weeks.

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