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By the numbers

Enrollment figures aren't exact but are important in obtaining money from the state

Enrollment figures aren't exact but are important in obtaining money from the state

September 26, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

The Bester Elementary School boy did a double take when he saw teacher Leslie Hanks. So did she.

At downtown Hagerstown schools such as Bester, students tend to come and go. Just a few years ago, both Hanks and the boy reported to class a few blocks away.

"When I came here, there were three kids here that I had then in first grade in intervention at Winter Street," Hanks said. The boy was one of them.

According to school officials, figuring out how many students attend a given school is not an exact science. Students come and go, and enrollment figures represent only a snapshot of how many students actually are in the seats.

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While the Washington County public school system is growing - school officials said several weeks ago they expected 20,722 students to report to class eventually this year, compared to 20,310 students last year - the system will not release official enrollment numbers until Friday. That's when the Maryland Department of Education requires school systems to provide their snapshots of student enrollment, said Bill Rinehard, a department spokesman.

Enrollment data determines the amount of state funding school systems receive from one year to the next, Rinehard said.

Attendance rates also are based on enrollment, Jefferson County (W.Va.) Schools attendance officer Sandy Dougherty said.

The figures also help match up children's test scores with the school systems where the students spent the most time. School systems sometimes appeal test scores of students who have moved in or out after target enrollment dates.

Maryland's magic date for official enrollment figures is Sept. 30, while Pennsylvania's is Oct. 1, said Debbie Timmons, the secretary to Greencastle-Antrim School District Superintendent P. Duff Rearick. The West Virginia Department of Education waits until Oct. 17 to finalize its school system's enrollment numbers, Dougherty said.

Dougherty said school systems spend the first few weeks of school determining the whereabouts of a handful of students who remain on the rolls, but have not made an appearance in class. These "no-show kids" might have attendance issues, or they might simply have moved, without being formally withdrawn, Dougherty said.

Most school systems request records documenting the school histories of new arrivals, but some do not, Dougherty said. That makes it hard to know where students who have moved have gone, school officials said.

"The way we typically locate a child is there will be a request for records from another school system," Mike Markoe said. The director of student services/special education for Washington County Public Schools, Markoe is responsible for providing the state with enrollment figures by school, grade level and demographic factors, such as race and gender.

Both Markoe and Dougherty said their school systems work all year to bolster attendance.

Until Oct. 17, Dougherty said she will be looking for the "no-show kids" who might actually be in school elsewhere.

"Yeah, we're shuffling our feet from the first day of school till then to try to find everybody," Dougherty said.

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