Mild weather boosts attendance in Merced schools

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 6, 2014 

Students file out of class at Alicia Reyes School in Merced last year.

BEA AHBECK CASSON — bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com Buy Photo

— Many of Merced’s elementary and middle schools have been reporting attendance rates of 96 to 97 percent for the past six months, thanks in part to mild weather that has limited cold and flu outbreaks in the early part of the school year, officials said.

Greg Blount, director of information technology and student support services for the Merced City School District, said 97 percent pupil attendance is the district’s goal. The most recent district baseline is 96.23 percent.

Franklin, Gracey, Peterson and Stowell elementary schools have been showing baseline attendance rates near 97 percent, making it the best of the past three years.

Burbank, Fremont, Muir, Reyes and Stefani elementary schools have registered attendance figures of 95 to 96 percent, and the challenge is to bring them up to the 97 percent figure, according to Blount.

RoseMary Parga Duran, district superintendent, said she is pleased with the attendance figures.

“Everyone is making a concerted effort to make sure children are at school,” Duran said. “If they are not in their seats, they can’t learn. That’s the bottom line. The numbers are on the rise and part of that has to do with such great weather.”

Blount, who regularly presents attendance figures to the Merced County Board of Education, has been tracking attendance for three years. His latest figures reflect the period from early August through Jan. 10. But the flu season has gotten worse in the Valley in recent weeks, with more severe cases being reported and four H1N1-related deaths in Merced County.

Blount said schools earn cash incentives if they stay above their baseline attendance figures. If all schools average 97 percent for a year, that means an additional $385,000 in revenue is generated. During the 2013-14 school year, one student generates $6,491 in state funding, or $36.06 a day.

“Overall district attendance is maintaining a healthy average with most schools over their baselines so far,” Blount said. “If the weather stays warm, attendance will be better than average.”

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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