New system hiccups caused some headaches for head counts at Modesto City Schools last week. But early attendance numbers are in, showing enrollment is down and slightly lower than district projections.
Class roll calls are more than just check marks in grade books. Daily attendance is what pays the bulk of the bills for school districts. Schools base their budgets on anticipated enrollment.
Enrollment figures are even more critical this year because school districts throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley are struggling to balance budgets amid state funding cuts. Budget shortfalls have resulted in teacher layoffs, staff reductions, class-size increases and program cuts.
Here are Modesto's initial numbers, excluding special education classes:
Elementary: 11,491. That's 230 less than last year and 163 below the budget projection. However, it is up 213 since opening day and growing, said Dennis Snelling, the district's director of business services.
Junior high: 2,862. The two-grade total is 213 lower than last year, and 43 students below what was projected in the district budget.
High school: 13,555. The total is 126 lower than last year and only 36 less than expected.
"These figures are really preliminary," Snelling stressed. "We're starting two weeks earlier than usual with a schedule we've never done before."
When the dust clears in a few weeks, Snelling predicted that the high school district will beat its projection, and the elementary grades will be close.
"We'll typically have a difference of 300 to 400 students, K-6 and 7-12 -- that's each" -- in the first month, Snelling said Wednesday.
The district's new virtual high school has 53 students signed up, he added. Gregori High opened with 886 freshmen and sophomores, or 44 more than planned. Downey High had some placement wrinkles when 107 more students arrived than expected.
Shiloh kids still on break
On Wednesday, Hart-Ransom Union district opened, which meant every district but one in Stanislaus County was in session and collecting enrollment documentation. Shiloh Union School District's 140 students get two more weeks of summer.
Modesto City Schools opened Aug. 11 with a new computer reporting system, and anecdotal complaints suggest not all went smoothly. The switch completed over the summer was necessary because the old computer program was outdated, Snelling said.
"Glitch is too strong a word," he said. "We have no indication that we're getting inaccurate numbers. We've had the normal bugs you have during any implementation."
For example, one popular new feature -- taking attendance with a visual seating chart -- didn't work as expected the first day, but does now.
In Turlock, classes started Monday and students are still being placed, said Connie King, assistant to the superintendent.
As of Wednesday, elementary schools in Turlock Unified reported 6,633 students for the first day of regular education classes, down 18 from last year, King said. Junior high and high schools reported 6,346 students, a drop of 67 students. She estimated an additional 500 students are enrolled in special education classes.
Ceres adds some students
In Ceres, where school started Aug. 9, enrollment looks to be 10,650 "or so," said Fred Van Vleck, head of Ceres Unified business services. That figure does not include special education classes, which are in flux, he said.
The Ceres total shows 40 more students in junior high and high school than last year, and 30 more kids in lower grades, Van Vleck said.
Patterson Joint Unified schools opened Aug. 12, and attendance there is up by six more students than last year in regular education classes, said Steve Menge, assistant superintendent, administrative services.
"The preliminary total is 5,760," Menge said. "We'll have a real clue toward the end of this week. ... We're hoping for a little better."
Menge said Patterson's budget was laid out expecting 20 more students.
In Sylvan Union School District, preliminary enrollment is one child less than last year's 8,139, administrator Randy Klinkefus said. Sylvan's budget projects flat enrollment for the coming year.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.