Pandemic having varying impact on West Michigan school counts


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Wednesday was school count day across Michigan. It’s a critically important day for districts because it helps decide how much money they get from the state. But in true 2020 fashion, it’s a little different this year.

Some parents have pulled their kids from public schools because of COVID-19 rules and concerns, opting for home schooling or switching to a private school. That could cause districts to lose some funding. It’s a numbers game: Fewer students means less cash for the kids remaining in the district.

Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Mike Shibler said roughly 200 kids left the district this year due to changes and concerns about of COVID-19.

“That’s why it very well may be that many school districts will have a lesser population than they had last year,” he told News 8.

To help districts compensate during the extraordinary circumstances, the Michigan Legislature passed a blended count formula. A majority of the count, 75%, will be based on the count from last year and 25% will come from this year’s count.

Shibler said how much money Rockford will lose has yet to be determined.

Other districts like Grand Rapids Public Schools, where there are more low-income households that don’t have the luxury of hiring an at-home tutor or enrolling in a private school, are feeling good.

“Not really a big concern,” GRPS spokesperson John Helmholdt said.

Wednesday’s count included in-person and virtual students, allowing multiple ways for kids to be counted.

“Right now, we are feeling pretty good about where the numbers are and are cautiously optimistic that we will be at or maybe a little above that we projected,” Helmholdt added.

In a release, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools said that while it lost 16 students from the fall 2019 count, the number was similar to the spring 2020 count. Overall, Superintendent Kevin Polston seemed satisfied with the numbers.

“To maintain enrollment in the midst of a pandemic, in a community that is disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19, is a great affirmation to the trust the community has in the school district,” Polston said in a statement. “Godfrey-Lee is essentially running two parallel districts with 50% of students choosing virtual learning, and 50% of students choosing full in-person learning. Our staff has been tremendous in meeting the needs of our students and families with an emphasis on our shared value of relationships.”

Districts have one month to submit their count day numbers to the state.

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