The Scottsdale Unified School District got about $293,000 in state funds due to increased attendance this past year, district officials said.
The district had a 99.3 percent attendance rate the first day of school, and about 1,200 fewer students absent the first day of the 2005-06 school year compared with 2004-05, said district spokesman Keith Sterling.
Superintendent John Baracy said a large part of the increase in attendance was the district’s later calendar. The first day of school started about a week and a half later, on Aug. 22 compared with Aug. 10 the previous year.
“Believe it or not, a lot of kids are on vacation,” on the first day of school, Sterling said.
This past year was also the first year of the district’s Start Smart program, a marketing effort to remind parents when school begins, he said.
“Learning begins on the first day,” he said. “If kids are missing the first day of school, they’re already at a disadvantage.”
The increased attendance earned the district money because part of the state’s funding is determined by a formula that averages students present on the first 100 days of school, but removes students from the formula if they aren’t there the first day, said Chief Financial Officer Bob Flach.
Fifth-grade teacher Nanette Hubbell said she appreciated the later start and saw improved attendance on the first day.
“Usually you’re adding one or two (students) a day later and you don’t know why,” said Hubbell, who teaches at Copper Ridge School.
But pushing back the start date also meant school got out June 8 as opposed to May 28 the previous year.
Hubbell said she didn’t like that at all.
“The longer school year was tough on everybody concerned,” she said. “I had one student who didn’t come back after Memorial Day.”
Baracy said developing the calendar is always controversial. And while this calendar will be re-evaluated, the late start date seemed to pay off, he said.
“It generated resources for us, and kids were in the classroom learning,” Baracy said.
Whether they liked the schedule or not, there wasn’t a noticeable difference in teachers requesting substitutes the last week of school, Sterling said.
There were 195 substitute teachers in classrooms the last week of the 2004-05 school year, which was a three-day week, and cost the district $17,500 in salaries, Sterling said.
For the last three days of the 2005-06 school year, there were 213 substitute teachers requested, which cost the district $19,000 in salaries.
Patty Gannon, whose son goes to Arcadia High School, said she didn’t mind school getting out in June.
The only problem Gannon said she saw with the calendar was that she couldn’t enroll her son in summer school without cutting in to her family’s yearly trip to San Diego.
“Before, summer school ended the first week of July,” she said.
“If you had your child in summer school, you pretty much couldn’t do a vacation.”