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Take Note: Counting on chickens; Forest or the trees?

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Can free chicken nuggets lead to more state education aid? A school in Colorado thinks so.

Rudy Elementary School in Colorado Springs distributed coupons for chicken nuggets to all students who came to school on Oct. 3, a crucial day in the state's annual calculation of student enrollment.

As in most states, school aid is distributed based on a student-attendance formula. Colorado's count period extends over several weeks, but Oct. 3 weighs more heavily in the calculation than other days.

Principal Douglas Christensen says his school was not the only one to use special inducements, pointing out that one school brought in a hot-air balloon for demonstrations.

At Rudy Elementary, students received coupons for reduced-price chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A, a fast-food chain.

Rudy Elementary, which has about 600 students in prekindergarten through 5th grade, is used to unusually high attendance levels, Mr. Christensen said. But given the great mobility of U.S. society, some students don't report to school until several weeks into the term, he noted.

Attendance on "count day" was strong except for one problem: Several students were home with chicken pox.

To cut or not to cut.

That is the question in West Bend, Wis., where the school board must decide whether to cut down 400 beech and maple trees near West High School.

Earlier this year, an official from the state's department of natural resources advised the board to remove the trees because they were blocking sunlight from oak trees.

But chopping down the beech and maple trees would destroy the school's "outdoor classroom," say science teacher Bonnie Hensel and students who are collecting signatures to protest removal of the trees. The woods are one of the few areas where science classes can study natural succession firsthand, they say.

"The dnr wanted to restore it to what they thought it was in the past, an oak savanna," Ms. Hensel said. "But the data we have show it was never that."

The school board has appointed a committee to study the issue, and teachers are asking for up to a year to investigate. "I really don't care how long it takes," Andrew Gonring, the board president, said. "The forest isn't going anywhere."

--Mark Walsh & Meg Sommerfeld

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