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How Michigan schools tried to lure students to class on count day

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 10/6/2021 Lily Altavena, Detroit Free Press
a dining room table: Empty classroom with no students © GlobalStock, Getty Images Empty classroom with no students

Detroit public school students would get Detroit Pistons tickets if they showed up to all of their classes Wednesday. 

West Michigan Virtual Academy in Battle Creek promised to enter its online students in a raffle for a TV and other prizes if they completed an activity, a virtual equivalent of showing up to school, at any time between midnight and 9 a.m. Wednesday. 

Detroit Public Schools will give away tickets to Detroit Pistons and Motor City Cruise games to students who attend all their classes on Oct. 6. © Facebook Detroit Public Schools will give away tickets to Detroit Pistons and Motor City Cruise games to students who attend all their classes on Oct. 6.

And students in classes with 100% attendance at Winans Academy, a public charter in Detroit,  were to meet zoo animals and eat cookies and ice cream on Wednesday, according to a Facebook post. 

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All across the state, school districts  did what they could to ensure attendance Wednesday, count day, a make-or-break day for many public schools.

What is count day? 

State officials will use student counts based largely on Wednesday's school attendance, to calculate funding for this school year. 

Schools in Michigan are funded per student. Up for grabs this year is at least $8,700 per student, depending on the district. 

"Schools are relying on their count day numbers being where they need to be to avoid losing money in the process," said Robert McCann, executive director of K-12 Alliance, an organization that represents school superintendents throughout Michigan. 

This year's count day was conducted similar to pre-pandemic years, while last year's offered some leniency in counting virtual learners.  

What could go wrong? 

Pandemic-era count day practices may be over, but that doesn't mean schools aren't still grappling with pandemic-era problems. Students across the state are still quarantining. On Monday, the state reported  455 new infections among 95 new outbreaks at the state's public schools. 

Students learning virtually can be counted, but the process is complex. (Michigan's Pupil Accounting Manual outlines count day protocol for schools.) 

There's a lot up in the air this year. Public school enrollment across the state plummeted last year, Chalkbeat reported, creating somewhat of a mystery over where missing students ended up. This year, officials are hoping for a surge in enrollment to account for some of those missing kids.

It's possible that some parents, protesting mask mandates, could pull their children out of school Wednesday and beyond as a sign of protest. A post on a public parents group in Hamilton on the west side of the state, called for parents to keep their children out of school.

One poster advised parents to keep their kids out of school for 30 calendar days to ensure schools couldn't count that student. 

Didn't schools just get a lot of money? 

Schools have received a deluge of federal pandemic funding this year. Some of that money is restricted for specific uses, like working with students who need extra help because they fell behind academically during the pandemic. 

But, the primary and more sustained source of funding for schools is still aid from the state's calculated per-student allowance. 

"We're just gonna have to see how this goes and obviously do everything we can to make sure that every district is getting the full amount of funding that they need and deserve for their students," McCann said. 

Contact Lily Altavena: laltavena@freepress.com or follow her on Twitter @LilyAlta.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: How Michigan schools tried to lure students to class on count day

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