Two-thirds of RISD students economically disadvantaged’

Flu bug impacts state ADA during first two six weeks
By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor

Changing demographics and the flu bug’s effect on recent attendance were pointed out to Rockdale ISD trustees Thursday at Rockdale High School.

Karl Kacir, assistant superintendent for business, told board members 64.1 percent of the district’s students in 2009-10 are now in the “economically disadvantaged” category, a jump of 13 percent in one year.

Kacir also pointed out the district has maintained its unexpected enrollment surge this term but its effect is being wiped out by flu-infected lower attendance rates.

Meeting for a Christmas luncheon in the high school FCCLA living room, board members also heard reports on visits to three innovative campuses in north and east Texas.

Layoffs, lunch

Almost two in every three RISD students is now classified as economically disadvantaged, defined by the Texas Education Agency as “eligible for free or reduced-price lunches or other economic assistance.”

That percentage was 51.0 in 2008-09.

Dr. Howell Wright pointed out two factors for the jump, one obvious to most Rockdale residents, one not so obvious.

“Alcoa’s layoffs are certainly at the forefront of the increase,” Dr. Wright said.

More than 1,000 Alcoans lost jobs last year when the company closed all six potlines at Rockdale Operations.

Dr. Wright also said Rockdale High School has a closed campus at noon in 2009-2010. Last year only freshmen were required to eat lunch on campus.

“That (three more classes on campus for lunch) would naturally increase our (free and reduced-price) numbers,” he said.

“ This is not a reason but an observation,” he said. “We increased enrollment, especially at the elementary campus, and we also increased the numbers and percentages of students that fall into the economically disadvantaged group, especially at the elementary campus.”

“We need to observe this for several years to determine if it is a trend, but if Rockdale ISD is similar to most in Central Texas we will continue to experience an increase in economically disadvantaged youth,” he said.

Enrollment, attendance

Kacir also reported the Rockdale ISD continues to maintain its enrollment increase.

The “October snapshot” enrollment date presented to the TEA in 2009 showed an enrollment of 1,753, up 50 from the 1,703 in October, 2008.

Enrollment was 535 at the high school (529 last year), 398 at the junior-high (387) and 820 in the elementary-intermediate combined (787).

That should be benef icial for the RISD in terms of state financing but not so far in a flu-ridden fall. State funding is not based on enrollment but on actual attendance.

“Our attendance has been down so much because of the flu, it’s pretty well wiped out the enrollment gains,” Kacir said.

First six weeks attendance for 2009 was 94.6, down 2.1 percent from 96.7 in the first six weeks of 2008.

Second six weeks attendance was better, 95.2, but still down 0.7 from 95.9 in the second six weeks of 2008.

Most of that loss was at the high school which posted a second six weeks attendance of 93.4.

Economic impact

“A gain or loss of a single student impacts the district by about $6,000,” Kacir said .

“If they also qualify for free or reduced price lunches (economically disadvantaged), that will usually generate about $1,200 additional aid in the general fund, plus it generates more in federal programs,” he said.

Campus visits

Dr. Wright and campus principals reported on campus visits to the Tatum, Plano and Coppell ISDs.

Dr. Wright noted the Plano ISD operates a “virtual school” with classes on-line.

He said Rockdale ISD is beginning to venture into the virtual school approach, noting that some health students will be taking on-line classes.

“It’s estimated by 2019, half of all high school courses will be in some kind of electronic format,” he said.

The Coppell ISD operates a “tech high school” which utilizes a virtually student-run project learning approach.

Chad Jones, RHS principal, said students are selected by lot to attend the high school, then draw up discipline rules and essentially handle discipline themselves.

“There’s no assistant principal and no need for one,” he said.

Learning is in groups with teachers as facilitators and students who don’t share the work load can be ejected from the group and forced to work on their own.

In other business Thursday, board members accepted the resignation of teacher-coach Trevor Marshall, effective Dec. 18.

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