‘Count Day’ – students worth $5,800
Schools typically provide incentives to ensure children’s presence Oct. 1

       It's not that District 11 will come to a screeching halt for lack of funds Oct. 1 if attendance is down that day. It's just that more students coming that day will simplify the task of proving to the Colorado Department of Education that the district deserves the Per Pupil Revenue (PPR) that makes up about 90 percent of its budget.
       Area principals traditionally offer incentives to ensure student attendance on what is known as “count day.” Steve Ferguson, in his eighth year as principal of Bristol Elementary, said that in the past he would always schedule the popular school “Track Day” on Oct. 1. But with a new physical education teacher this year, Ferguson said he may have to look into promising ice cream bars for the kids who make it..
       The way the count works, a properly enrolled student could miss Oct. 1 and still be counted if any missed days in the Oct. 1 “window” (five days before and after) are properly accounted for, according to Glenn Gustafson, District 11 chief financial officer, and Becky Kluck, executive director of budget and planning. However, the district must prepare special paperwork, satisfying the critical eyes of state auditors, to explain absences on Count Day.
       On the other hand, “If the student is there (on Oct 1), it's a slam dunk,” Gustafson said.
       Some districts have been known to recruit students in the middle of the day on Oct. 1, the administrators noted. For instance, if a student is in a District 11 school in the morning but winds up in a District 20 school in the afternoon, District 20 gets the PPR.
       If a student were to enroll in a District 11 school Oct. 2 and dutifully attend classes there the rest of the year, the district would get zero dollars, Gustafson said.
       A student's PPR amounts to about $5,800. The total of all the District 11 PPRs comes to “probably 90 percent - $180 or 190 million” - of the income in the district's annual budget, Gustafson said. “So “it is is absolutely critical we get it accurate.”
       As indicated by the Bristol scenario, there is no district-wide strategy to make sure students come to school on Count Day. “We don't actually suggest incentives to schools,” said District 11 spokesperson Elaine Naleski. “The main thing is that schools let parents know how important that day is for district funding.”
       Ferguson said he doesn't spend a whole lot of time planning how to lure kids to Count Day. His main goal, he said, is to “try to make it so they always want to be at school.”

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