Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Counting the Kids

If you are reading this you are probably wondering, 'What is Hudson's enrollment for this school year?' The short answer is that we don't know yet. I know what you are thinking because I used to think the same thing. How hard can it be? You just count the kids, right? Go into the classrooms and count the kids. Well, it is a little bit more complicated than that! Now, you may recall on the first day of the school  year I published what is referred to as our unofficial count. This is a snapshot in time that merely measures how many students we have in our buildings on the first day of school. It is unofficial because none of the students have been verified or classified. And enrollment tends to fluctuate and vary throughout the school year. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the number of students we enroll on the first day is different than the number of students we enroll right now, and will likely be different than the number of students we enroll next week. 

The first day of business in October is designated as official 'Count Day' in Iowa schools. It is on this day that we officially lock in our enrollment numbers. Whoever we have in our buildings on that day become our students and those for which we will receive enrollment funding. A student that moves away on September 30th for example will not appear on a school district enrollment (we had some of those). This year Count Day was on October 3, so if a student moves out of the school on October 4th, they will be counted on the school district official enrollment. This is a very important accounting process because the official count becomes the nexus of a school district budget for the following fiscal year. 

Counting students may seem like a rather elementary procedure, yet it is anything but! And perhaps a little bit misleading!  While Count Day occurs on the first business day of October, the count doesn't become officially certified until October 15th. When we certify our count, we are affirming that our numbers are accurate and true to the very best of our knowledge. Because the certified official count is directly tied to the budget, the stakes couldn't be higher. 

Currently we are in the window of verification that occurs prior to certification. We are verifying that students are in fact, residents of the Hudson Community School District. In most cases this is relatively easy, but from time to time we run across an address that doesn't quite match up, or a situation where a post office box is provided in lieu of a physical address. In order to be considered a legal resident, a physical address is necessary. It is also pretty common during this window to have students be counted by multiple school districts. Obviously only one school district can count a student, so during this verification window we determine where in fact the student resides and should be counted. 

We also must classify which students in our school district are attending Hudson under Iowa's open enrollment law, and which resident students of Hudson are attending other school districts in Iowa under the open enrollment law. Then there are some of our resident students who are being served in special education programs in other school districts and are counted in a separate classification, as well as those who are residents of other school districts attending special education programs in our school district. Student who are being served as English Language Learners are counted in a certain way, as well as students who are home schooled and attending Hudson for part of the day. Indeed, there are multiple ways in which students are counted or classified and we have barely scratched the surface here. 

So what is our enrollment? The jury is still out and I won't certify our count until next Saturday, October 15th. You will be able to access our enrollment report on the school district website next week on the 'About Us' page. But here is a little preview of what we know right now. Although our unofficial results suggest an increase of 1 student, officially we appear to be down a little bit. This follows an expected decline in enrollment over the past several years. However, the good news is that this decline is expected to reverse next year and continue to climb the next several years. On top of this, the new addition in Upper Ridges is expected to bring even more students! 

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