GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools is literally banking on this year’s count day and budgeting for the smallest student loss in years.
After an historic count day last year, when the district marked a loss of only 47 students, GRPS has budgeted for a loss of 14 students this year. Each student counted in the district translates into about $7,000 in funding from the state.
“Our budget is based on a 14-student decline that would be the lowest in history, certainly in the past two decades,” GRPS spokesperson John Helmholdt said. “No, we’re cautiously optimistic that we are going to meet — or possibly beat — those projections.”
To put the projected student loss in perspective, GRPS enrollment has dropped by about 2,500 kids since 2009. The district lost nearly 1,000 kids in one year alone.
“This year, you know, in light of the fact that we had the single best count day in two decades last year and we are going for growth,” Helmholdt said.
With the goal of growth comes incentives of a sort. For count day on Wednesday, the district will allow students in every school not to wear uniforms.
Helmholdt said that it is not a bribe to make sure kids show up to school.
“This is no different than what we’ve done with our positive behavior intervention and supports and the attendance challenge,” he said. “We want to affirm good behavior, we want to affirm those things that we know have an impact on academics.”
Last year, there weren’t as many incentives for count day. The rule was that kids should come to school on that day and every day.
“I think that’s something where when we talked with students, when we talked with staff and said, ‘What are some things we can do to promote attendance?'” Helmholdt said. “This is something that we’ve been doing as part of the attendance challenge where students, if the class has the best attendance, they get a no uniform day. This is really not that unique. In fact, this year we just decided to put a little more emphasis on the count day so it’s uniform district-wide.”
Helmholdt said plus or minus 20 students wouldn’t likely mean dramatic changes in the classroom, but if the district does end up losing significantly more kids, it will have to make more significant budget changes.
“We are poised to make history as one of the first large urban districts, not just in Michigan but across the country, to actually increase enrollment. So we are going big on count day again this year because we think we are that close to making history,” Helmholdt said.