GRPS posts historic gain on Count Day

Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall announcing this year's Count Day numbers on Oct. 5, 2016.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal was optimistic this year’s Count Day would see improved numbers for the district.

Estimates had the district increasing attendance figures for the first time in years by as many as 25 students. That optimism turned to excitement when the preliminary numbers showed 160 new students were in GRPS classrooms Wednesday.

“To beat projections is almost unheard of,” Weatherall Neal said. “It’s really a historic moment for me as a superintendent, for me as a GRPS employee.”

For the last two decades, the district says it has seen an average loss of 400 to 600 students annually.

Count Days mean more than additional kids in class. It’s also additional money from the state. Wednesday’s figures will likely boost state per pupil aid to the district by about $1 million.

“The Transformation Plan is working. It’s really thanks to the community and thanks to the parents. They heard my call and that is to send your children to school,” Weatherall Neal said.

Over the years, GRPS has tried everything from street corner rallies to incentives to get kids to come to school on Count Days with limited success.

Weatherall Neal said the more recent approach has been much simpler. Remind students and their parents day in, day out of the importance of coming to school.

“Everyday matters. We didn’t go out and do this big push on the street corner or anything like that,” Weatherall Neal said. “They’re getting it. They’re responding to it, and we’re responding to parents because of it.”