Head count determines state funding for Federal Way schools

In a year-to-year comparison between 2009 and 2010, the Federal Way School District shows a negligible change in a “head count” of the number of students.

A comparison between October 2009 and October 2010 shows a difference of 17 students from 21,743 to 21,726:

• The high schools lost a total of 98 students,.

• Middle schools gained three students.

• Elementary schools gained 24 students.

• The district’s alternative schools show more students, with 330 this October compared to 276 last October.

The most populous school in the district in both head counts was Thomas Jefferson High School, which had 1,855 students in the October count.

The number of students enrolled in the district plays a role in how much funding the district receives from the state for each student. The bulk of the district’s per-pupil funding comes from average full-time enrollment reports taken September through May, said district chief financial officer Sally McLean.

Head count numbers can determine the amount of funding for programs like special education and English Language Learners.

For the 2009 to 2010 school year, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Federal Way had an average population of 21,667 students.

District spokeswoman Debra Stenberg said there’s no particular grade level or type of school that fluctuates in population. Federal Way, she said, has a “highly mobile population” of students.

When it comes to guarding against high absenteeism or truancy, the school system uses a call out system, which contacts parents of students who are absent. Parents can choose to have the calls sent to their cellular or work phones. The system can also send text messages and e-mails.

Schools in Washington are required to notify parents of students’ absenteeism under the Becca Law.

Stenberg said that some specialized programs and schools in the district are attracting more students. The Federal Way Public Academy is attractive — comparing October 2009 with October 2010 shows a gain of one student — and an engineering program at Decatur High School is increasingly popular.

The district tries to spread awareness about specialized schools and programs at special events for fifth-graders and eighth-graders. Those events will be held Jan. 26 and 27.

“It’s like a college fair,” Stenberg said.

Federal Way Public Schools also offers high school planning nights for 8th graders at each high school. Those nights will be Jan. 26 at Thomas Jefferson High School; Feb. 3 at Federal Way High School; Feb. 7 at Decatur High School; and Feb. 9 at Todd Beamer High School. There is also a middle school showcase for 5th graders Jan. 27 at the Federal Way Aquatics Center.

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